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11 Tasting Notes

80

360ml of water at 195F
1 heaping tablespoon of tea
Steep for 4 minutes
1/4 teaspoon of highly refined sugar

It’s described as a Namring Poomong Upper, but with the DJ2 designation, and an SFTGFOP1 ranking, it is classified as a different Spring Flush Namring tea at Mariage Freres. Yet the similarities are there coming from the same estate, same flush, same year. However, this tea is not as good as the Spring Flush Namring was last year.

The taste is very light and I tried bringing out more of the flavor by adding more tea leaves. The taste became sronger but did not necessarily heighten the flavor of the tea. The Namring last year had a refreshing floral note while retaining all of the flavor of an exceptional Darjeeling. It had great body as well. The 2013 Namring has less flavor, does not have the floral notes, has more of an earthly quality to it, and is flat in taste.

I really wanted to like this tea and it is still a good Darjeeling, but it misses the mark of the stellar Darjeelings Mariage has released in previous years.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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53

400ml of water at 195F
1 level tablespoon of tea
Steep for 4 minutes
1/4 teaspoon of highly refined sugar

As a Spring Flush tea, this Jungpana represents a difficult tea to judge. In 2011, the First Flush Jungpana was among my favorites, highlighting all the tastes a fine Spring Darjeeling has to offer. In 2012, the Jungpana lost some of its flavor and was a very light tasting Darjeeling.

This 2013 Spring Flush Darjeeling is more similar to a Summer Flush than a Spring Flush. It has the bold, brisk, astringent taste of a Summer Tea. It retains some if it’s fruity flavor of years past but this is all together different when mixed in the the astringency and the bold taste.

As a Spring Flush Tea, it fails to please. It has none of the complex, light tasting, multitude, of floral and fruity notes. The stringency is strong, harsh, overbearing and does not accentuate the overall taste. Gone is the very slight, not at all sour stringency which brings together and heightens the taste of all the complex flavors.

Hopefully all the other teas of my purchase, will live up to the gold standard of a Mariage Freres Spring Flush tea.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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82

400ml of water at 195F
1 generous table spoon of tea
Steep for 4 minutes
1/4 teaspoon of highly refinded suger

Teapot warmed and rinsed with hot water. Tea leaves placed into the teapot and left standing for 30 seconds to build up the aroma.

This was quite unexpected. A first flush Darjeeling to arrive in JANUARY of 2013. Mariage Freres always provides a wide spectrum of Darjeelings always pushing the boundaries of what a Darjeeling should taste like. The Namring Poomong is no exception.

Very large green leaves with silver tips mixed throughout the tea. The scent of the leaves is light. The leaves yield a very yellow tea after being steeped for 4 minutes. Yet even at 4 minutes, the tea does not exhibit any atringency which gives way to the delicate flowery/fruity flavor and aroma, with a hint of nuttiness.

This is not a Darjeeling having a bite to its taste. This is a delicate and smooth tasting Darjeeling where all of the individual light flavors can be enjoyed. This tea is a worthy addition to first flush line up of Mariage Freres Darjeelings.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec
CharlotteZero

I added that tea a few days ago here: http://steepster.com/teas/mariage-freres/35451-2013-namring-poomong-upper-ftgfop1-darjeeling-first-flush-ex1-2013. I wish Steepster had an option to combine two pages.

Excelsior

Hmmm. Searched for this tea last night and I did not find it on the tea list. Searched again after you comment and found it. Don’t know if they can combine the two pages.

CharlotteZero

Well, I’m glad I was following you and saw this review. I’m going to try this one tonight!

Excelsior

Hope you like it. I’m interested in reading your thoughts on the Brumes D’Himalaya and the White Tea from Beyond the Skies. Enjoy!

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70

400ml of water at 205F
1 heaping tablespoon of tea
Steep for 3 minutes
1/4 teaspoon of highly refined sugar

Rating Darjeeling teas from Mariage Freres is a difficult proposition. Why? Because the benchmark is so much higher which is reflected in the price of their teas. USD48 for this Spring Flush Arya. Would it be fair to compare this tea to other retailers selling their Spring Flush Darjeelings for half or even a third of this price? Maybe not, but I will say this. The Arya from Mariage Freres is a fine Darjeeling when compared to offerings from other retailers, yet when compared to its Mariage Freres peers like Namring, Castleton and Margaret’s Hope, it falls ever so slightly short.

The color of the leaves is a mix of green and brown. The scent of the leaves is surprisingly strong and alluring when compared to other Mariage Freres FF Darjeelings. However even when properly brewed, the taste lacks the depth I expect from FF Darjeelings. It also lacks complexity in its taste.

I have tried most of the FF Darjeelings from Mariage this year. Some are exceptional (FF Margaret’s Hope, FF Namring, FF Castleton, FF Ambootia), some are very good (FF Jungpana and FF Sivitar). Others are just satisfactory (FF Moondakotee, FF Nurbong, FF Chamling, FF Happy Valley, FF Bloomfield, FF Turzum).

For those not accustomed to the taste of Darjeelings, or for those disliking the grassy nature fo the taste, I would recommend the neutral taste of FF Sivitar and FF Jungpana Upper. For those accustomed to the tase of Darjeelings, then the FF Castleton, FF Namring, and FF Margaret’s Hope are the best teas for 2012. For a tea with a complex taste and very different from other traditional Darjeelings, then try the FF Ambootia. Arya just floats in the middle somewhere. Lacking taste, depth, complexity, and flavor to justify the 37 euro price tag.

This is he last review for the FF 2012 Mariage Freres Darjeelings. Next year, I’ll rate the teas again because the taste changes dramatically year to year, from the same estate, from the same harvest season, and even with the same rating.
Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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94

400ml of water at 195F
1 heaping tablespoon of tea
Steep for 2 minutes
1/4 teaspoon of highly refined sugar

Darjeelings are extremely temperamental. Over extend one or more parameters (tea leave volume, water temperature, steeping time) and the tea becomes mediocre. Darjeeling also has the disadvantage of only offering one good steep and if manage to get a second or third steep, it does not compare to the flavor and taste of the first.

This year’s Castleton, by Mariage Freres, surprised me. The recommended steeping time for the 2011 FF was 5 minutes. The recommended steeping time for this year’s Castleton is 2 minutes. Same estate, same flush, same grade, different year and the time changes considerably. Could this be correct? Based on my memory, it took a full 5 minutes to bring out the full complex flavor of the 2011 FF Castleton. It only takes two for this year. Steep the 2012 for a longer time and the astringency will assert itself often masking the other delicate flavors exhibited in this tea.

So how is the taste of the 2012 First Flush Castleton? Excellent. A complex mixture of floral notes, full body with the classic “muscatel” taste, and little to no stringency. This flagship Darjeeling tea from Mariage is always good. Consistent in high quality, full flavor and great taste year after year after year. I asked the question of why the Darjeelings from Mariage are so different in taste from other retailers and their answer is this: “most of our Darjeeling premium flushes are exclusively grown and kept for us by the owners of the gardens from one flush to the other. That also is the reason why we can on some very rare occasions refuse a whole flush from one garden due the incapacity to meet our standards.”

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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95

Amount of tea:  1/6 the volume of the teapot
Water temperature:  195F
First steeping 45 seconds, 2nd 55 seconds, 3rd, 65 seconds, 4th 75 seconds, etc.
Tea rinsed before the first steeping. 
 
I love High Mountain Oolong Teas from Taiwan.  I chose to order from the retailer, “Tea from Taiwan,” because they specialize and only offer Taiwanese High Mountain Oolongs.  The order process was quick, easy, and my order arrived in about 10 days, Taiwan to California.
 
The Zhong Shu Hu Oolong tea was excellent.  Floral notes were evident in the first steepings along with very light natural sweetness from this unflavored tea  After multiple steepings, the Floral notes diminished, giving way to a fruity flavor, further enhancing the sweet nature of this tea.  What I like about Oolong teas is how the flavor changes during multiple steeps.  The first steep was 45 seconds and I added 10 seconds to each subsequent steep.  Even after steeping this tea 10 times. It still had lots of flavor, it was still very smooth, and never became bitter.   In the first steepings, the tea was light green, changing to a bright orange in later steeps, and finally into a light brown color. 
 
The retailer offers several sample packs so you can taste the teas before placing a full order.  
 
 
 

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec

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97

400ml of water at 195F
1 heaping tablespoon of tea
Steep for 3 minutes
1/4 teaspoon of highly refined sugar

If you don’t like the grassy green taste of Darjeeling teas, then you may want to skip this one. The grassy taste is very pronounced in this tea, and it is immediately evident at the first sip. It is not astringent though and I happen to like the taste of this tea and year after year, it’s been a perennial favorite. The very small amount of sugar I add, takes the edge off the green taste.

If you can get over the initial taste, you may realize this tea is full of body and character. It stays smooth to the last drop. There is a slightly minty(?) note to this tea which is reminiscent of a light clove taste.

What I like about Spring Darjeelings from Mariage Freres are the different flavors each one has to offer. Some are nuetral, some are complex, some are light, and this Margaret’s Hope has a strong grassy flavor.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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89

400ml of water at 195F
1 heaping tablespoon of tea
Steep for 3 minutes
1/4 teaspoon of highly refined sugar

Teapot warmed and rinsed with hot water. Tea leaves placed into the teapot and left standing for 30+ seconds to build up the aroma.

The Spring Flush Jungpana never disappoints. The leaves are very green with silver tips interspersed throughout the tea. The steeped tea is a light orange/red in color. Out of the premium Darjeelings, the price is on the lower side (for Mariage). A very smooth tea with a bold taste, with a slight bit of astringency which compliments the body and flavor of the tea. It does have the grassy/green taste associated with Darjeeling teas. Yet there is no one overpowering characteristics and everything blends together extremely well. Always one of the favorites out of the Mariage FF Darjeeling line of teas

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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94

400ml of water at 195F
1 generous table spoon of tea
Steeping time 5 minutes (yes, 5 minutes)
1/4 teaspoon of highly refined sugar

Teapot warmed and rinsed with hot water. Tea leaves placed into the teapot and left standing for 30+ seconds to build up the aroma.

A very green tea with a fresh scent. This First Flush Darjeeling is very different in taste when compared with other FF Darjeelings from Mariage Freres. Floral and almost grassy in tea, in leans toward a fine Japanese Green tea in flavor. The astringency is stronger in this tea than other Mariage Freres Darjeelings which leads to a slightly sour aftertaste. This is my wife’s favorite tea out of all the 2012 FF Darjeelings we have. As for my rating, it is slightly lower than previously reviewed Darjeeling. This is due to the higher astrngency masking the depth in taste of this tea. I have lowered the steeping times in several brews which controls the astringency yet the shorter time tends to decrease the release of the different flavors this tea contains.

As with all FF Mariage Freres Darjeelings, this is also an exceptional tea.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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97

400ml of water at 195F
1 heaping tablespoon of tea
Steep for 4 minutes
1/4 teaspoon of highly refined sugar

As I usually do for all Darjeeling, I heat the teapot with hot water, then discard the water, add the tea and let it stand for 30 seconds allowing the aroma of the tea to develop. The green scent of the tea is on the moderate side.

This 2012 First Flush Namring was quite a surprise and completely different from the 2011 First Flush Namring. While the 2011 had a very pronounced green/freshness in taste, the 2012 has a better balance of flavor, taste, aroma, and contained all of the classic qualities of a FF Darjeeling. The astringency is very slight adding body and character to the tea. The flavor is bold and brisk yet not over powering. All of these characteristics makes the 2012 FF Namring an exceptional Darjeeling.

The flavor fully opens up after 3 minutes of steeping. Very smooth from the first sip, and there is little to no aftertaste.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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Profile

Bio

I’ve always had an interest in tea and it became a passion when I moved to work and live in Japan. There was a Mariage Tea Salon just three subway stations away from where I lived.

I tried the Darjeeling Princeton blend. It was fabulous. In the course of twenty three years, I tried all sorts of teas from Lupicia, Marine de Bourbon, Fortnum and Mason, Shiseido Tea Salon, Brooke Bond Tea Salon and countless others. Now, I primarily order Premium Spring/First Flush Darjeelings direct from Mariage Frères, France. Others teas I drink are Oolong Teas from Taiwan, Green and Red Rooibos from South Africa, and the Japanese Green Teas my wife always brings back from Japan.

Location

Irvine, CA

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