Wednesday, April 15, 2009

REVIEW:, Arya Estate Darjeeling, Premium First Flush 2009

Darjeeling from the Arya Estate, Premium First Flush 2009.

I love this cup of tea. I love it. And it is sent to me by Sonam Paljor Lama, who lives in Darjeeling and operates (opening soon) and his blog, Sonam was kind enough to send me a sample, which I am really enjoying right now. Thank you, Sonam!

The tea comes from the Arya Estate, and is the brand-new 2009 spring tea. As a first flush, I expect the tea to be light and bright, with an airy flavor. Let's see how that expectation bears out.

Filtered, boiling water into my cast-iron Tetsubin, over 4 teaspoons of tea, for 3 minutes. This tea can go for maybe up to 5 minutes, but I'll go with a shorter infusion for my first time.

The dry leaves are tightly furled, ranging from forest green to a brighter spring green. When opening the package, such an unusual smell-- a smell of vegetal decomposition, almost pine. I love smelling things that seem unidentifiable but beautiful.

What a wonderful, strong scent comes from the wet leaves: like ash, like honey, tobacco-sweet. The leaves opened up into beautiful green-brown leaf fragments.

Beautiful amber-brown cup, transparent and clean. The flavor is bright and intense-- nothing relaxed about this tea. It seems like it's shouting, or dancing. It has a very pleasant astringent dryness that moves across the tongue, and the flavor is so caught up in the fragrance. Sonam suggested the tea is like roasted honey, and I am inclined to agree with him. But to say that seems to make it seem cloying, when it is bracing instead. What an exciting cup of tea! This is why I drink Darjeelings.

As I pour the second cup, I must come back to the leaves. As they've sat a few minutes, they have become more floral, with a grape arbor scent. Imagine sitting under a grape-leaf canopy in northern Italy, smelling the fragrance and taking in the scenery-- that's what this makes me think of.

The color of the cup is still the same richly brown-amber appearance, clear to the bottom of the cup.

Now that the cup has had a few minutes to cool, and as it allows the complex chemistry in the pot to deepen and add layers to the flavor, I definitely notice a honey scent that strongly makes me think of a beehive. Rather pungent and delicious. There is a roasted flavor as well. (And that sounds exactly like Sonam's description! Remind me not to read other people's reviews before I make my own.)

The flavor seems to lock in immediately, and then stay intense all the way through until the aftertaste, where it remains a sort of bright tingle at the back of the mouth and throat. Even after the second cup, I am not losing the intensity. But rather, there is a mellow smoothness developing in the cup as it cools slightly.

This is an extraordinary and intriguing cup of tea, the best I've had in quite a while. This seems like just that perfect Darjeeling-- bright, sharp, sweet, layered, and unique.