The Journal | #FortnumsTea

Boxing Day Hamper

First Flush Darjeeling

Our First Flush Darjeeling is unique from any other tea that we produce.

Every spring the First Flush represents the beginning of a new season of growth in Darjeeling, India. The First Flush is the name given to the first leaves that are picked every Spring - these leaves contain the deepest flavour and highest quality of the year.

After waiting all winter for new growth, the first growth of the new season often leaves only between 14 - 21 days – usually between February and March – for pickers to harvest the very best of the newly grown tea leaves. While the tea itself is wonderfully serene to drink, the immense journey these little leaves must go through before reaching the cup is what makes this tea so beautifully rare.

The expertise of the tea connoisseurs at Badamtam Estate, where our Darjeeling is grown, gives them the unique ability to know exactly when the leaves are ready to be picked. Equally, they need use only their trained eyes to decipher what is of the highest quality.

The challenging conditions in which the tea leaves are grown is what gives them their deep, fresh flavour. The tea pickers rise at dawn in the hopes that the sun will break through the clouds above the mountainous valley and encourage the leaves to grow.

While beautiful to behold, these mountainous conditions mean that the Darjeeling tea leaves grow in incredibly steep terrain, with high altitudes and extreme elevations. These harsh growing conditions bring out a juicy, floral flavour, while the leaves that are picked later – during monsoon season – are grown in far easier conditions and, in turn, have less of a full and flavoursome taste.

Turning Leaf into Tea

After the bud and two leaves are picked they are laid out to wither overnight. The next day the leaves are rolled out, creating the slight twist of the leaves, and they are then laid out to oxidise.

While First Flush Darjeeling tea is a wonderful green colour, it is in fact a black tea. It is a highly unique skill to know exactly how long the leaves need to be oxidised, as if they are left too long the flavour of the tea will change entirely.

The leaves are then dried and sorted into different tea grades, with only the very best of the bunch going into our First Flush Darjeeling caddies. While thankfully there is no short supply of many of our famous teas, Darjeeling is unique in that it is grown in rather small quantities. Around 550 million kilos per year of Assam are grown, for example, while around only 10 million kilos of Darjeeling tea are grown each year.

How to Brew

Our First Flush represents many things – the emergence of Spring, the incredible resilience of the tea leaf and the unique expertise that are needed to grow such a remarkable tea.

While wonderfully unique, treat this beloved brew as you would your other favourite Fortnum’s blends – no milk, brew at 90 degrees and don’t forget to serve with your favourite biscuit alongside.