A little while ago I was lucky enough to receive a parcel of Darjeeling teas - extremely generous samples! - from Tony of High Teas in London. Shamefully, it has taken me way too long to get around to featuring them on this blog; but I wanted to make sure I had time to do them justice. I've only opened two of the four packets, as I want to keep them as fresh as possible, and I've been drinking pots of these two - an Autumnal from Castleton Estate and the Badamtam Mid-Flush I'm reviewing here - over the last several weeks to try and get a feel for them. Anyway, here goes.
The Badamtam dry leaves are finely twisted as you can hopefully see in the photo; they vary quite a bit in length and range in colour from almost black, through brown and tan, to the numerous pale greeny tips - this is visually a very attractive and delicate looking tea.
The aroma of the dry leaves is hard to describe; it's a little fruity I think, but also with a 'dry' smell that is simultaneously quite rich if you inhale it for long enough. I don't have a better way to describe this; it's almost a citrussy aroma, but then again not quite. It's actually what I think of as 'Darjeeling smell'.
I brewed a rounded teaspoonful in about 300ml filtered water for approximately three-and-a-half minutes. This produced a liquor which was a beautiful, crisp, clear amber in colour, without a trace of muddiness or dullness - which I guess you wouldn't expect from a grade of tea with quite so many letters after its name anyway. Heh.
When I tried the Badamtam cup-for-cup with the Castleton Autumnal the other day, the Badamtam showed up distinctly fruity and quite a bit sweeter than the Castleton (perhaps this is the 'muscatel' flavour I hear so much about as a feature of Darjeeling tea flavour?). Drinking it on its own, though, I found it a bit more difficult to pick up those fruity nuances. However the Badamtam is very smooth, with only the very slightest astringency as you start to get towards the bottom of the pot, and it has a slightly silky texture in the mouth. There's a small amount of sweetness in the aftertaste, but this isn't a dominant aspect of this tea (at least not for me, not today). It's more that it tastes - and again I really can't find the right words, but perhaps that doesn't matter too much - very 'Darjeeling-y'.
Just thinking about this right now I am actually amazed that there is such a thing as a quality of 'Darjeeling-ness' - and there are also qualities of 'sencha-ness' and 'oolong-ness' as well as 'Assam-ness' - how absolutely remarkable that dried leaves steeped in water can display so many unique (yet sometimes similar) characteristics.
I am so awed by tea.
In any case, the Badamtam Mid Flush gets my hearty recommendation; it's a beautiful tea, and thanks so much to Tony for giving me the chance to sample it! I'll be following up with more Darjeeling posts in the not-too-distant future.