New Year’s resolutions and Darjeelings

Posted on January 01 2010


The New Year’s resolution is to taste every tea in the store, with as little bias as possible, and comment on each via this blog, starting today. I planned to start a week or two ago so I’d have a few teas already tasted and some notes so I wouldn’t be rushing at the end as is my habit. Soooo..

…I rushed to the store this morning after finishing cooking the black-eyed peas and collard greens and stuck the second batch of cornbread in the oven, took samples of each of the three Darjeelings currently in stock, looked for the scrap of paper with the log-on info for my brand new blog and drove back home to take out the cornbread, stick in the ham and figure out how to taste the teas with a head-cold and 12 people coming over for the “traditional” New Year’s meal. I say “traditional” because after marrying a Southerner I quickly found out that one must eat collard greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread on New Year’s Day for good luck. We do this now every year but I cook the black-eyed peas Cypriot style. I caramelize onions in olive oil, sauté the collard greens (in Cyprus this would be chard not collards but I figure this change takes care of two out of the three ingredients necessary for good luck) and then add everything to the pot of boiling peas. The result is served with additional olive oil and lemon. Randy and our Southern friends have quickly come to appreciate this variation and just go along.

Back to the tea tasting. No taste buds to speak of and bunches of people around so I decided to enlist the help of friends for the first round of tea tastings. I brewed the three teas for 3 minutes at 195 oF and we all sat around the remains of a wonderful meal with our cups.

The first tea we tasted was organic Darjeeling FTGFOP-1, Avongrove.  I was surprised at everyone’s immediate negative reaction. It was described as astringent, a common characteristic of Darjeeling teas, thin, lacking in character and as having “no finish”. Until a few years ago I have to admit that this had been my experience of Darjeeling teas in general and I’ve always wondered what the attraction was.

Tea #2 was Darjeeling FTGFOP-1, Margaret’s Hope and this one was a much bigger success. It was thought to be smoother, less astringent, more complex but still thin and lacking in body. Nancy thought it had a distinct “piney” note with some floral component.

The Dragon Thunder was the 3rd tea we tasted and everyone’s face changed as their cups got close enough to their noses to inhale the aroma. Someone said citrus, two others said citrus blossoms. Cosette said it smelled like “driving through Davie in orange blossom season”. Even with my clogged-up nose I could smell the notes of honey and flowers that had made me re-think Darjeeling teas when I first came across Dragon Thunder. The flavour was described by everyone as more robust, smoother, more complex and lacking the astringency of the first two teas. A long, muscatel wine finish makes this a truly remarkable tea in my book and everyone else’s that tasted it today. There was also a consensus that it goes really well with collard greens and black-eyed peas!

Next posting I’ll spend some time explaining what makes a tea a Darjeeling and what all the random letters after the name of the tea mean. Oh, and for an added incentive to keep coming back to the blog, if you put in a web order and include one of the teas I’m tasting that month you can use coupon code “darjeelingblog” for $5 off orders over $35. I’ll post a different coupon with each type of tea I taste and they’ll all be good for a month so enjoy and invite your friends!


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