It is easy to forget that different seasons are used for tea harvest. The seasons in which tea leaves are harvested and the conditions in which they are grown determine how they taste. They are constantly changing in their properties and flavours. This is where the ‘flush’ concept comes in. The season or the time tea leaves are picked, is determined by a flush. This can lead to completely different teas.
Darjeeling teas best illustrate this system of harvesting tea. These teas are unique and valuable because of the difficult terrain and rugged geography where they grow. These leaves can be harvested in four distinct flushes. The first and second flushes are the most well-known.
The first flush, also known as Easter Flush, is made up of leaves picked between February-April. These are the first shoots or buds that the plant produces after it has finished winter dormancy. They are delicate and young, so they are tender, delicate leaves. These tender leaves are delicate, light and astringent with a floral flavour. These leaves retain the spring leaf essence and are, therefore, less processed and oxidized than other types of black teas. They appear greener and whiter. The first tea flush is considered a luxurious treat and is often called the Champagne of teas.
You can get the second flush by selecting maturer, fuller leaves between April and June. This season can last up to eighteen months in some areas. These leaves are more productive than spring buds and have a deeper flavour, colour, and aroma. This tea is stronger but retains its fresh, fruity flavour. It is perfect for lazy summer evenings and long days.
Certain regions make tea from the monsoon flush. These teas have the longest plucking periods and are made when heavy rains fall upon the crop. The leaves liquor becomes stronger and nuttier over this period. However, the overall quality of these leaves is affected by the rains. These leaves are used in commercial tea bag production and iced teas.
The autumn flush is the final stage of the tea harvest. This sees the tea plant extract all the goodness it has once more to make a rich, creamy, smooth liquor with a deep copper hue. This occurs in October and November, just before the tea pickers and plants retire for the cold winter.
I am fascinated by the changing seasons and changing teas. It’s wonderful to taste other months as they go by. The tea crop offers many things, and I want to enjoy them all. Each season has its flavour, its own characteristics, and its character. Tea is an art, just like wine. It is accessible and easy to understand. We should brew tea in its wisdom. Tea is smarter than we realize.