2021 First Flush Darjeeling Tea [Glenburn]
Our 'go to' First Flush since the very start of Comins Tea : family run Glenburn never fails to deliver and this carefully selected lot is a bright, sweet tea
In more depth...
Tea Name First Flush Darjeeling
Tea Maker Sidhant Prakash
Origin Glenburn Tea Estate, Near Singritan, Darjeeling, West Bengal
Harvest Time : 19.03.2021
Manufacture Date : 20.03.2021
Cultivar Pure China
Grade : Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe 1 (FTGFOP1)
Plucking standard Two leaves and one bud
Processing Withered, rolled, oxidised and fired
Experience Bright, sweet and refreshing
Last visited by Comins : June 2018, Michelle Comins
How to prepare this tea [Western Style]...
Amount of tea per cup (200 ml): 5g (one tea caddy spoon)
Temperature of water: 95℃ / 185℉ (boil kettle, cool for 20 seconds)
Infusion time: 2-4 minutes (or as desired)
Number of infusions: 2
How to enjoy: No milk, no sugar
Tales of the Tea Trade : Glenburn
Michelle : We were late. For those of you who know me this perhaps does not come as much of a surprise…perhaps partially my fault but it so happened that on this particular day there was a fuel strike in the hills. After many stops on the steep and windy roads up the mountains we finally re-fuelled and arrived to meet our driver waiting at the top of the road leading to Glenburn. Husna had already warned us of the bumpy road down to the garden - she wasn’t wrong. She had also said that as soon as we arrived that would all be forgotten - and again she was right. It was dusk, one of my favourite times in the hills - the evening providing the perfect light for the factory set against the backdrop of Mount Kanchenjunga. The 750 hectare Glenburn estate, started in 1859 but now owned by the Prakash family, sits in a river valley surrounded by the ingredients that make the tea here so special - the forest [350 hectares of reserve forest], the rivers that run through it [The Himalaya fed Rungeet and Rung Dung run through here] and even at this time of night a taste of the wildlife - birds and insects present in this lush landscape. Of course we would have to wait until the following day to meet the other critical ingredient to great tea - the 700 families who live here, work here and call Glenburn home. After dinner we headed over to the factory which, while we slept, would keep working through the night to process the fresh leaf...
The human touch is one of the key factors in producing high quality orthodox black teas. I have often found this aspect to be overlooked by consumers of black tea - perhaps more widely recognised in the specialist handmade teas from countries such as China, Taiwan and Japan. There is no replacement for the human touch - the slopes here are steep and the finest Darjeeling requires the hand plucking of the tender shoots in the early morning which will then be carefully carried to the factory for processing. In the factory the leaf will go through a number of processes carefully overseen by the head tea maker - in this case Sidhant. That evening in the factory Parveez, the manager, and I stood by the withering beds, the gentle whirring of the fans in the background discussing the dedication it takes to make the finest Darjeeling. He told me how, when he started out, he used to sleep in the withering beds - spending all night with the tea so he would know, by touch, when the tea was ready to move onto the next stage - withering is the process by which most of the moisture is removed from the fresh leaves - too short and the leaves still contain too much moisture, too long and the leaves are too dry. These skills and the skills needed to guide the leaves through the following processes of rolling, oxidation and drying are learned by spending hours with the leaf - but in my experience tea makers also have an innate understanding and love for tea - the plant and the beverage. Whenever I drink a cup of Glenburn I always think of Parveez.
People : The approach at Glenburn is one of community. A community that recognises that without an appreciation of the skills of the people who work here there is no future. Labor laws exist in India but Glenburn go beyond this to provide welfare and benefits to its workers and their families which go beyond what is required by law. With a long 9 month harvesting window year round permanent employment is provided. We would be happy to share more details of these programmes should you require even greater transparency.
Soil and land management : Glenburn is not currently organic. But that does not mean that the approach to the soil, land and plant is not stringent and considered. Both Husna and Parveez explained to me that the main issue for them in moving to certified organic across the full garden is the additional costs and additional labour requirements with an already stretched workforce. Gardens like Glenburn do not have the flexibility of smallholder cooperatives and as Husna explained 'for me, the simple answer is that certification and the crop loss associated with going organic is just too expensive for gardens like ours. We use a lot of organic practices, and grow what we call “responsible” tea. Responsible - in many areas including the welfare of our workers, and protecting our land and our environment in various ways'.
Organic farming techniques have been adopted such as the use of vermiculture, organic manure (from workers’ cattle), herbal pesticides, and biofungicides. Due to the crop loss mentioned above the team have started to increase organic activity in just one of their divisions (around a third of the tea garden) - an approach we have seen elsewhere in the region in family owned gardens. We will keep you updated on this progress.
We share this here in order to provide a transparent answer to the question of 'organic' in larger gardens. In our opinion each garden must be looked at in its own right, the practices and intentions understood so that we and you can choose which tea you wish to buy and the type of tea future you want to support. There are strict guidelines for the export of tea that gardens must reach and the teas from Glenburn are regularly tested - in the words of Parveez 'One of our main objectives is to make healthy and safe tea for our customers. We do this by following strict farming practices and following industry norms. Our teas are often lab-tested for its safety, so we know it is safe for consumption'