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.”