This is another generous sample which Tony from High Teas was good enough to send me.
The dry leaf has a good fruity aroma. In appearance it mostly consists of dark brownish-black, shortish twisted leaves, with some lighter-coloured tips scattered throughout. I brewed a slightly heaped teaspoonful in about 300ml of water for approximately 3 and a half minutes; the wet leaves smell sweet. They are plumpish, evenly sized and copper-coloured with tinges of green.
The liquor also has a good fruit aroma and taste, quite similar to the smell of the dry leaves. It's a gorgeous transparent copper colour, as you should hopefully be able to see from the photo (which is unfortunately a little blurry; I blame my husband, who used the camera last. He fiddles with the settings, because he knows how to take more fancy photos than I do, and then my photos turn out disastrously because I don't realise).
The taste is a little dry - in a good way - with very mild astringency (but slightly more astringent than the Badamtam which I wrote about here). The slight astringency builds in the mouth very pleasantly as you work your way through the pot. I'm just sipping on a second pot, which I steeped for 4 and a half minutes this time; stronger flavour and colour, but still only pleasantly astringent.
I've been drinking quite a lot of this tea over the last few weeks - it's incredibly easy to drink, with a lovely rewarding flavour, but the added bonus is that it's also ordinary enough to be an 'everyday' tea. I don't mean ordinary or everyday in a negative way, because this is a high quality tea, but you could drink it out of a mug at work* and feel sustained, a little bit spoiled, but not flouncy, if you know what I mean.
I have found that the Castleton Autumnal is a good tea to pair with food, particularly something that's a bit sweet and a bit rich. Interestingly, these kinds of foods seem to bring out the flavour of the tea, rather than mask it (as can often happen). I served it at brunch one Sunday with a Cornish-type saffron cake (which is more like what we think of as bread these days, yeasted and loaf-shaped), with which it went beautifully. I also used it to soak some prunes which were to be included in a recipe (courtesy of a friend) for a chocolate brownie - fantastic flavour addition (and a really great brownie too, although the prunes would have been terrific just on their own, or with some yoghurt or something like that).
I haven't had an autumnal flush Darjeeling before, and I've just pulled out my copy of The Story of Tea to see what the Heisses have to say about them: it seems that the autumnal flush is the last to be picked each year, between October and November, and is known for being rich, smooth and soft in the mouth. Well, that sounds about right. Jane Pettigrew's New Tea Companion also indicates that autumnal Darjeelings have a bit more body than the earlier season teas; again, that sounds about right; I thought I noticed a nice round mouth-feel. Good to know that I'm picking up on a few things as I muddle my way along the tea trail...
*ok, a nice-ish mug