Located in the heart of Darjeeling, the Singell garden was one of the first to be sown in India, in the 19th century. Although more and more cloned trees are being planted there, it was originally planted with Classic China-type trees that are said to have been brought back from China by British botanists. Proud of this heritage, the growers have managed to preserve a section of the garden, called 44heritager that remains planted only with these first trees.
Now 150 years old and grown from seeds rather than cuttings, these trees have plunged their roots deep into the soil, which gives them greater resistance to weather conditions. In this way they derive nourishment from the mineral reserves of the terroir.
Illustrating the pure and classic character for which Darjeeling teas are internationally renowned, the teas produced by the heritage section of the garden are also remarkable for the quality of their taste.The leaves release intense fragrances of pastry, and their well-balanced liquid has a silky texture and a pronounced floral character with notes of clover honey and muscat grape.
When the English established tea in India, the product was destined mainly for the export market. Before the 1850s, the people of India drank almost no tea, whereas now they consume almost 79 percent of what they grow. Now considered the national drink, tea is the most affordable and available beverage in India. Indians usually choose an inexpensive lower-grade black tea, either loose or in tea bags. They are not as concerned about the quality of the tea because they usually add milk, sugar and spices to it and make chai.
Invented by the professional sector and used in tasting salons during contests or to batch teas, comparative tasting is a method of observing, smelling and tasting various teas and comparing them to each other. The teas are subjected to the same conditions and prepared according to identical parameters (quantity of leaves, water temperature and infusion time), so that their essential characteristics can be more easily compared.
For each tea to be tasted you will need the following accessories:
• A cup with a lid for the infusion
• A bowl to receive the infused liquid
• A small dish or a sheet of white paper on which to observe the dried leaves
• A scale for weighing each tea and a timer to time the infusion
Carry out the tasting in a well-lit spot close to a window, as this will make it easier to distinguish the different shades of the leaves and liquids. To make it easier to taste the differences, the teas are usually presented in ascending order, from mildest to strongest.
• Weigh the tea. In the case of black tea, it is customary to use 1/2 ounce (2.5 to 3g) and a 4-fluid-ounce (120 ml) infusion cup. The aim is to concentrate the flavors, as their distinctive characteristics will be easier to detect. You should also place a small quantity of each tea in a small dish or on a sheet of paper.
• Pour the water on the leaves in the cup. In the case of black tea, use almost-boiling water; about 203°F (95°C). Place the lid on the cup as soon as you finish pouring the water.
• Wait three minutes. This is the standard infusion time and is best for this type of tasting. Remember that the goal is not to get the best results for each type of tea but to submit them to the same conditions.
• Tip the cup with the lid into the tasting bowl. The liquid will flow through the opening in the rim of the cup, and the leaves wilt be held back.
• Flip the cup over quickly so the leaves are caught on the back of the lid, and inhale the fragrances released by the freshly infused leaves.
• Taste. First smell the liquid using a spoon or directly from the bowl, then take a sip, rolling it around your mouth to cover all the taste buds and the tongue. With the liquid in your mouth, breathe out completely through your nose to allow all the aromatic elements to come in contact with the olfactory gland through retro-olfaction. Follow the development of the liquid in your mouth, the texture, suppleness, etc.
Note: In India, milk is added when tasting teas that are produced to be consumed that way. The addition of milk is essential for the evaluation of the color of the liquid are important consideration for that market sector.