We forget that there are different tea harvest seasons. The seasons and environmental conditions in which they are grown determine the leaves. Their flavors and properties are constantly changing. The concept of a “flush” comes into play. The flush is the time of year or season when the tea leaves are harvested, resulting in a completely different tea!
Darjeeling is an excellent example of this method of harvesting. These plants are valued and exclusive because of the challenging terrain. The leaves are harvested from four different flushes. Of these, the first and second flushes are the most well-known.
The first flush, or Easter Flush, is a collection of leaves picked between February and April. The plant’s first leaves after winter dormancy are these delicate, fresh young leaves. These tender leaves have a light, floral flavor and are astringent. These leaves are processed the least and oxidized to preserve the spring leaf flavor. They appear more green and white than other black teas. First, flush tea is a luxurious treat, often called the champagne of black tea.
You can get the second flush by picking out the fuller, more mature leaves growing between April and June. This season can last up to August in some areas. These leaves are larger and more aromatic than spring buds. They also grow faster. This tea is more substantial but still has a fruity flavor. It’s perfect for lazy summer evenings and long days.
Some regions produce their tea during a monsoon. The most prolonged plucking period begins when heavy rainfall falls on the crop. The leaves liquor becomes stronger and nuttier during this period. However, the quality of the leaves is affected by the rain. These leaves are used to make commercial tea bags and iced drinks.
The autumn flush is the last stage, when the crop squeezes out its good for one final time, producing a smooth, rich, nutty tea liquor with a deep copper color. This occurs in October and November, just before plants and tea pickers go on holiday for the winter.
I am always fascinated by the seasons changing and changing teas. It’s lovely to taste the other months as they pass. It is a joy to taste the tea harvest. Each season has its flavor, characteristic, and personality. Like wine, tea can be both understandable and accessible. We should brew tea to learn from its wisdom.