Tea can be classified on a variety of factors. They can be on the basis of elevation, size of grains, type of processing, or their properties like strength, body, etc, or if they are flavoured or unflavoured. Similarly, a major factor affecting the teas is the time of the year when they are plucked. Plucking season has a massive impact on tea quality since most of the tea growing regions do not receive rainfall throughout the year. That makes good quality tea a seasonal product. It especially holds true for Darjeeling teas which are famous for their distinct flavours across different flush seasons. These plucking seasons across the year are called flushes, and each flush has its own unique effect on the tea processed during that period.
Hence, tea flush is a useful indicator to differentiate the aroma and flavour of different types of tea.
There are 4 major Flushes during the year in North East India. They are as follows:
First Flush / Spring Flush
Popular as ‘Lover’s Bush’, the First flush is the first harvest of the year. The harvest time varies from late February and often lasts through April. The first flush is known for its fine nuanced flavour and delicate taste globally. They contain the highest concentration of antioxidants like catechins and polyphenols since they’ve been retained and gathered throughout the winter. They have a shorter shelf life of a few months as compared to the 9-12 months for other flushes. Also called the ‘Champagne’ of teas, the Darjeeling first flush tea is one of the most expensive teas in the market. It is loved for its bright liquor and lively character.
The first flush tea reminisces spring- the season of new beginnings with rains and the blossoming of fresh tender tea buds. There is a high demand for first flushes among tea connoisseurs. Celebrate the delicate flavour of the first flush and enjoy a delightful pot of this elixir.
Second Flush / Summer Flush
The second flush of Darjeeling and Assam is the summer produce which lasts from April to May/June. It is popular for its distinct strong and fruity flavour. For this reason, tea lovers usually pair them with sweet side dishes, in typical British Afternoon Tea fashion. The floral hints pack that extra punch as compared to the delicate first flush. The second flush has an amber brew and is stronger than the first flush.
The tea buds and leaves in the second flush of Assam have silver leaf buds with a purplish hue. The leaves grow larger and faster than the first flush owing to the plentiful sun in the summer and initial rains in June. If you prefer your teas strong, bold, and rich in flavour, this one is meant for you!
The monsoon flush is produced from July to early October. The heavy rains and less sunlight and heat result in less complex, robust strong flavour, and strong amber cup colour. These types of tea are often used for iced teas and refreshing masala chai. Though tea connoisseurs generally skip this flush, this type of tea is strong and amber in colour.
Autumnal flush lasts from early October to mid-November. The last flush is characterized by slow leaf growth as the tea plant approaches winter hibernation and water availability is not as much as the second or monsoon flush.
The liquor is dark with a distinctive nutty flavour. The brewed tea is stronger than the other flush seasons with its spice-like after taste and aroma.
Since India predominantly consumes milk tea over any other format, CTC tea is widely produced and used. The end cup is coppery bright and stronger than the first and second flush. It has a unique spice-like aftertaste. For CTC Tea, RippleTea.com offers a multitude of teas from speciality CTC to flavoured tea offerings like Vanilla, ginger, masala chai, cardamom rose lemon, and more. We strive to create the perfect tea experience for even the most carping tea-drinkers.
The Outlier – Munnar Teas
While Assam and Darjeeling have climatic conditions that doesn’t produce consumable tea during summers, South India produces tea throughout the year instead of the usual 5-month flush/plucking period. The climatic conditions in the south allow teas to be produced and plucked throughout the year. These plantations in the south consist primarily of Munnar and the Nilgiris hills. These terrains are home to the shola forests and abundant water resources through rivers, rains, and streams.
While there are changes in the flavour profile of these teas across the year, the overall teas are strong and flavourful with tastes ranging from floral to nutty produced.
All kinds of teas like White tea, Green Tea, Oolong Tea, Black Tea are produced here.
Which Is the Best Tea Flush?
The choice depends from person to person.
Darjeeling First flush tends to be more costly because their production is lesser and there is a negative demand-supply gap. They have a delicate taste and aroma. Second flush has a very famous strong and fruity taste while autumn flushes offer a nutty flavour and can be a great addition to your boring routine.
On the other hand, Munnar’s teas grow round the year and have almost consistent quality of tea throughout.
Once you understand the basics of types of tea, you can easily make an informed choice while buying tea. It’s time to pamper yourself with the distinct flavours and aromas of tea!