Sunday, August 15, 2010

Darjeeling - Makaibari Estate 1st Flush

Another contender in the lineup of Arbor Tea selections.
This tea is certified both organic, and Fair Trade.

First flush teas are not my favorite. Second flush teas are alright. Autumnal flush teas are beautiful. I enjoy the flavor profile of an Autumnal flush Darjeeling much more than I do first or second flush.
I do have a bias, but I will try not to let it get in the way of a review. I review a tea for what it is, not for how I see it. It is all about personal preference in the end, but I am not here to push my preference on readers. I take a tea for what it is.
That was my disclaimer.

Onto tea.

The dry leaf is good looking, and looks to be of a moderately high grade. I do not know the specific grade but I could guess that it would be somewhere along the lines of a TGFOP. I am no authority on the subject, but I had to make a guess, right?
The leafs aromatic qualities are delightful, much more fruity than floral. I pick up mango, guava and lemon. Subdued hints of muscatel are evident as well, but are lingering in the background.

The tea produces a liquor that possesses a heavy aroma, and outstanding clarity. Good sign for this tea.
Squash, zucchini and bayleaf scents are pungent and inviting.

First flavors encountered are of squash; the vegetal attribute, and mango; the sweet characteristic. There is a very clean citrus finish, and quite a light astringency.
I do not enjoy an overbearing astringency in a tea, so I was very pleased it was subtle (the tea is just trying to make a good impression on me).

This tea is not the classic profile of a first flush Darjeeling, but I believe that is what I enjoyed about this tea.
It is a standout and a palate catcher in the vast amount of Darjeeling teas.

Now for a bit of science.

I had my Father sample some of this tea, and one thing he said stood out to me;
"This tea has some oolong flavor to it."

When one takes a look at the infused leaf, you would wonder how this tea is not classified as an oolong.

There are obvious variations between the levels of oxidation of each leaf.
Darjeeling teas are a fully oxidized black tea, so why are there green leaves?

This is a direct result of the processing that Darjeeling teas undergo, mostly due to the withering stage.

Withering is a process in which the raw tea leaves lose moisture to make the pliable for rolling and shaping, and it is a time which the chemicals in the tea leaf change. This results in increased levels of caffeine, organic acids and polyphenol oxidase, the enzyme responsible for oxidation.

There are varying levels of withering.

-Soft wither: the leaves lose only about 25-32% of their moisture content, usually employed in the production of CTC and low grown, full bodied teas.

-Medium wither: the leaves lose about 32-40% of their moisture content, used in the production of low grown, full bodied teas, but have a more pronounced aroma than in the soft withered teas.

-Hard wither: the leaves lose about 40-50% of their moisture content, used primarily in the production of high grown teas. There is a noticeable increase in aroma and flavor.

-Very Hard wither
: the leaves lose about 70% of their moisture content, used in the production of extreme altitude teas, such as Darjeeling. The result of this extreme moisture loss is the inhibition of oxidation. The enzymes in the cells become too dry to bond with polyphenols when the leaves are rolled. This enzymatic reaction is what turns the leaves to a coppery color we see as black tea. In the case of Darjeeling tea, this process only occurs to a certain degree. In essence, the leaves are fully oxidized, but the variation of color is due to the fact that the chemicals cannot bond to further oxidation levels. This is what gives Darjeeling its leaf appearance, and profound flavor profile.

Hope you learned something.

*All the facts stated are based on the manuals authored by the STI.



  1. Great information. I've often wondered why Darjeeling leaves were so green in comparison to other black teas.

    Thanks for this post.

  2. Lahikmajoe,

    I have wondered that for a while as well! I hope this post cleared things up on that subject! =]

  3. I understood it all (I swear I did).
    I still haven't tried my first flush (shame on me) but this makes me want to do so.

  4. Ice,

    Hope you learned something! =]
    I personally do not find first flush darjeelings to be a favorite of mine, but this one was wonderful.
    Hope I can hear about your first flush tea experience!

  5. I really like everything I've ever tried from Makaibari estate, and like you with this tea, I found their teas to have their own unique (and bold) twist.

    I had never thought of looking for bayleaf aromas in tea but now I am going to think of that...because when I picture some teas in my head I think that that aroma or something like it is sometimes present.

  6. Alex,

    I can't wait until the autumnal flush teas arrive. I am hoping to find some similarities to this tea if I order an autumnal Makaibari.
    There are all sorts of aromas and tastes in tea. In this specific one, there was a savory herbaceous note I couldn't quite put my finger on, but the closest smell I could think of was bayleaf. It is interesting to see what kind of connections the brain will make regarding tastes and smells.

  7. Great post and liked the way you tasted and described Makaibari. Makaibari teas are one of the most prized teas and as you mentioned withering plays a big role in how the tea comes out. Not all darjeeling teas are fully oxidised black teas, increasingly Darjeeling white and green have found great buyers. We have compiled a Darjeeling Tea Wikipedia here at, it might have some interesting notes to read :)

  8. TeaXpress,

    I will have to look that up and see! And yes I have had several Darjeeling whites and greens and they have a pretty good flavor profile! Thank you for stopping by!