Posted by: ktzefr | July 5, 2013

Drinking Moonshine…Tea

I grew up in the hills of Kentucky where moonshine referred to a homemade, illegal, alcoholic beverage.  I don’t recall ever tasting it, but we all knew who made it.  My parents ran a general store and only a handful of customers ordered 25 pound bags of sugar.  Somehow their jam and jelly making stories were never convincing. The moonshine I’m drinking, however, doesn’t require a speck of sugar.

This brew is a special, first flush darjeeling tea that grows at high elevations in the foothills of the Himalayas in Northeast India.  The leaves are picked only in March and April and often bring high prices at world auctions.  First flush darjeelings are marketed and imported similar to the Beaujolais Nouveau wines and are considered the “champagne” of teas.

The town of Darjeeling, located at 6,000 feet above sea level, is surrounded by more than 50,000 acres of tea bushes.  Though I have never visited Darjeeling, those who have say that, on a clear day, you can see Mount Everest from the tea gardens.  Tea is produced from March to November in North India and the same plant may be harvested as many as thirty times during the picking season, but leaves from the same plant during different times of the year can have a very different taste due to seasonal changes in the weather.  As the year wears on and the monsoons begin the leaves take on more water and produce a more standard-tasting tea.  The first new shoots from the Darjeeling bushes, however, are very fragrant and light.  Perfect.  No need for sugar or honey or milk.

I’ve enjoyed many darjeeling teas, but every time I find a new perfect brew my local tea shop stops selling it.  A number of reasons are given for this, but I suspect it’s simply a matter of being outbid on the international markets.  So I’m learning to shop around and, in some cases, I track down the leaves I’m looking for or stumble across something new and special.

Moonshine is a first flush tea from the Glenburn Tea Estate.  Leaves can be purchased directly from the estate, but I bought this tea, along with a few others, from Darjeeling Tea Xpress, which claims to have the largest variety of first flush teas online.  I can’t guarantee this, but I can say the Moonshine I’m drinking is delightful.

From seedlings to tea cup…

*****

First-flush darjeelings are also available online from The Tao of Tea and Rishi Tea.

In the past I have enjoyed Darjeeling Vidyaranya, Darjeeling de Triomphe, and Darjeeling Puttabong (a second-flush tea with an incredible flowery scent), but I have not been able to purchase these teas in some time.  These were all purchased in the past from Teavana, but it seems they’ve dropped some of their really good black teas in favor of leaves mixed with herbs and spices.  I prefer real tea.

See related posts about TEA.

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