On an unseasonably rainy day in Adelaide, a bunch of people gathered at a suburban home. For Tea.
Not just any tea, but five excellent Darjeelings, that had arrived a few hours before, from India. There's a picture on twitpic if you're interested.
Of the assembled throng, 4 agreed to taste and review all five teas. Believe it or not, some people find the idea of five different teas in rapid succession too much to cope with.So our reviewers: the inestimable and long-suffering Mrs Devotea, myself, and two anonymous ones, S1 and S2.
We started with the Kangra Oolong. Several guests got excited, thinking this was an Australian tea. Never Mind!
The notes on the site suggest that this is a Handrolled S.F.T.G.F.O.P.1 from the Dharamshala . A Darjeeling Oolong is still a a rare beast. It ceratinly had an unusual grass scent when dry.
The initial response to this might seem disappointing. Words like 'bland', and 'nothing' were being used to describe the tea, though Mrs Devotea, who normally dislikes all Oolongs, described it as "drinkable, but bland". I must admit I had to agree. However, S1 went crazy over it. She asked for more, and said the flavour of fruit came out the more you drank.
On our points system,added up at the end, this tea came in fourth place.
We then moved onto the green - specifically, a Gopaldhara DJ 156 F.T.G.F.O.P.1 second flush.
It's fair to say nobody liked this. Mrs Devotea is not big on greens - in fact everyone present was more of a black fan, but we gave it a go. S2 found it dry and sweet, but not exciting, and that was the best reaction.
I'm yet to find an Indian green I truly enjoy. Whilst black Indian teas such as Assams and Nilgiris remain firmly my favourites, I'm not convinced India can produce a green to rival some of the magnificent Chinese ones.Incidentally, this tea came a distant last in our scoring system on the day. To be fair, any green would with this panel.
Excitement mounted as the first black was poured - it was a F.T.G.F.O.P.1 black version of the same second flush Gopaldhara that we'd tried in green.
The malty smell of the dry leaves came wafting out as the water was poured on them. Several reviewers started to salivate.
Let me pause to explain that I don't like 'cupping" - I think people should review tea as they would drink it. Of our reviewers S1 and myself drank everything straight, Mrs Devotea had sugar in everything and milk in the blacks, and S2 tried everything neat, then added sugar, and /or milk and tried again.So, I poured the Gopaldhara to appreciative murmurs.
Mrs Devotea enthused: "Robust, a really good cup of tea." S1 agreed.
I found it tasted like it smelled, and was really enjoyable. It had a dried fruit and rosemary taste, which was unusual yet exotic. S2 believed it better with milk, which I found surprising. When the points were added up later, it came in at number two.
Much more exciting was the fourth tea, which would ultimately be judged the best of them. It's a Goomtee S.F.T.G.F.O.P.1 Special Autumn Flush Black, though the label suggested it be pre-autumnal.
Mrs Devotea hated the smell of the dry leaves and was reluctant to taste it, but awarded it her top tea of the day points. She described it as a "refined, classic Darejeeling. When you ask for a Darjeeling, this is what you should get." S1 said "I adore it, it's so full-flavoured". S2 described it as "quite like an organic special Ceylon BOP I'm fond of". I only made one note at the time ("strong up front, parsley and nuts") but obviously was concentrating more on drinking it, and taking this photo.
I should say that as I type this, I'm drinking my seventh or eighth cup of this since! It's wonderful!
The final tea was an autumn flush from Castleton , another Black F.T.G.F.O.P.1
This tea was a hit with all except S2, who thought it was too earthy. Personally I liked the soap and earthy tones, and to me, it was the best of the day. But it came third in our points system, as the others assembled preferred the previous two.
None of the teas would persuade me to change my favourite Darjeeling - Giddephar Musk - but all in all, great tea, well presented, and a great event on a rainy day!
It was an excellent day, and my thanks to Kaushal Dugar and Darjeeling Tea Express, and the judging/tasting panel.