Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Comparing three Arya Estate '09 Darjeelings

It's moments like this that remind me why I drink tea. I've come a long way from avoiding stale teabag tea, to being able to experience (at once) three of the premiere teas of Darjeeling. It's hard to express how lovely is the aroma I'm experiencing. It's like springtime; it's like a mountain of spices.

I have before me three cups of Arya Estate Darjeeling, provided very kindly by Thunderbolt Tea, via, where I am a contributor. The three teas are:

Arya SFTGFOP1 China '09
Arya FTGFOP1 Clonal '09
Arya SFTGFOP1 Sample '09

What surprises me is how different the tea leaves appear, but how alike the liquors themselves are. The aroma rising from the three cups is intoxicating.

Arya SFTGFOP1 China '09
Slightly bitter, complex, astringent, leads to sweet aftertaste. High notes of cherry or berry fruit;
  • Dry leaves: Twisted green-black leaves. In terms of oxidation, the middle.
  • Wet leaves: Quite large leaves , nice tobacco aroma.

Arya FTGFOP1 Clonal '09
Richer taste than the first and third; deeper flavor. because of more oxidation? Cherries. Spun sugar.
  • Dry leaves: Orthodox preparation, darkest oxidation; mostly black, a little green.
  • Wet leaves: darkest oxidation of the three; a rich red-green. A bit difficult to discern the aroma, in comparison with the other two.

Arya SFTGFOP1 Sample '09
Brightest, most astringent sample. Brilliant example of a high-end Darjeeling.
  • Dry leaves: Leaves appear as oxidized as the China '09. However, the smallest in size of leaf.
  • Wet leaves: Lightest oxidation, almost entirely green; beautiful garden-fresh scent, like my Grandpa Allison's rose garden.

As I compared the three Darjeelings, I was struck by how difficult the tea taster's job must be. My palate, though much more sophisticated than it was a few years ago, was simply overjoyed by what it was drinking, but trying to explain the subtle differences among three teas of the same estate, grown at the same time, sitting next to one another was challenging. I had hoped that this review would be really in-depth, an exploration of the movement among the leaves of these plants. Instead, I discovered that being a tea taster would be a job for a more highly skilled drinker than I. When I read that tea shop owners will cup 60 or 100 different, nearly identical teas in a day, and then be able to make value judgments among them, I start to understand what that would entail.

For my interest, questions I am left with: What are the differences between the clonal and the Chinese varietals? How do these differences affect the final cupping? Are there characteristics I would expect to find that would help me when making purchasing decisions?

I know, not much useful information here for a tea connoisseur, except for me saying that a tea cupper's job is a challenging one, and I can only imagine how much practice and training it would take to become one.


Beth MacKinney said...

I wonder if tea tasters also have a highly developed sense of smell something like perfumers. This would add to the enjoyment of the tea, I am sure.

Anonymous said...

Steven, I think you're doing a marvelous job here. One thing to remember is that sometimes brevity is virtue. In this case, I was pleased to read about cherry or berry flavors just to learn a little more about Darjeelings. And I did get a sense of both the similarities and differences between these teas. --Spirituality of Tea

Unknown said...

Jason, thank you for your feedback.

Beth: Tea tasting is really something. A short article about it can be found here:

Unknown said...

Jason, regarding brevity: It is the source of wit, to be sure. For my purposes, I like to write thoroughly about my tea experience here, because it is a way for me to educate myself and not forget what I'm learning. And I hope my tea journey proves to be an interesting and helpful source of information for other people, as well.