First Flush from the valley of tigers

It doesn’t get any fresher than Dallmayr First Flush Darjeeling

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In the high-altitude regions between Bhutan and Nepal, where the air is thin and the sunshine particularly intense, a delicacy thrives that sets tea lovers’ hearts racing: the first Darjeeling after the winter break. Known as First Flush, there is no fresher tea. Just a short time ago, this tea was flourishing at altitudes of up to 2,000 metres on the sunny slopes of the Himalayas. But now, it is sitting on the shelves of the Dallmayr tea department – albeit for just a few weeks until the end of June, while stocks last.

What makes First Flush so special?

Generally speaking, First Flush is the tea picked during the first harvesting period between March and April, and which is then imported as quickly as possible. What makes First Flush so special is the clear understanding of quality amongst everyone involved – plus the fact that there can only be one first harvest each year. The idea behind First Flush was born out of the longing of tea lovers in the 1960s: eagerly awaiting the end of the winter break, when tea plantations lay dormant, they yearned to once again enjoy the fresh and delicate tea leaves of the year’s first harvest. “Transport by sea takes several weeks, and while the tea shipped in containers retains its characteristics, it loses a certain degree of freshness and is no longer as fresh and invigorating,” explains tea expert Christoph Knobloch, who is responsible for purchasing tea at Dallmayr.

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Dallmayr First Flush from the Tudkah tea garden

The high demand for these fresh and aromatic premium teas has made them highly sought-after rarities. In Darjeeling, there’s a deep understanding for tea production and competition is fierce. A real race takes place to become the first to deliver First Flush to consumers. However, quality takes time, and the tea leaves need to have matured fully for their true potential to unfold in the cup. Harvesting too early not only has a negative impact on the tea’s flavour, but also on its value as a product.

This year’s Darjeeling is strong in character and comes from the “Tudkah” tea garden, which in the local language means “the place of tigers”. While tigers no longer roam the land, the valley is still shrouded in legend and is famous for its first-class teas. Christoph Knobloch raves about the third picking from the tea garden which, with its delicate golden colour and floral, full-bodied flavour, is a feast for the senses. “The tea has a fresh and flowery fragrance with a highly aromatic, full-bodied and pleasantly sweet flavour. We are delighted to have secured this excellent tea for the 65th anniversary of our First Flush variety.”

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"Two leaves and a bud"

In mid-March, night-time in the tea gardens is still relatively cold. During the day, however, the sun has plenty of power – helping the first tender buds from the tea plants to emerge. The young leaves are soon picked by hand according to the rule “two leaves and a bud” – in other words, the top two leaves and the first new bud. The finished tea is produced in the tea garden itself, before being carefully packed in boxes or sacks and immediately flown from Kolkata via Frankfurt to Munich.

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Only a few days lie between the harvest in Darjeeling and arrival in the tea department at Dallmayr in Munich. This short period of time is what lends Dallmayr First Flush Darjeeling its quality and unique flavour: delicately floral with a hint of lily of the valley and a subtle sweetness, paired with a refreshing, tangy note.

Tip for preperation

To prepare the tea, Dallmayr recommends using one slightly heaped teaspoon of tea per cup. Add fresh, boiling water and allow the tea to steep for 3–5 minutes. Freshly infused, this tea has a shiny, bright golden colour in the cup and is best enjoyed without milk. “Please don’t add brown rock sugar, because its caramel taste diminishes the tea’s flavour,” advises Christoph Knobloch. “The same goes for milk and cream. First Flush is far too fine and elegant for that.”