An 80 on the tea scale yet not recommended? Why? Read through to the end and you will find out.
Last year, 2013, it seemed important for Mariage Freres to get the very first picking of the Spring Flush teas and I feel they chose immediacy over taste. It’s nice to know in 2014, this is not the case for a small portion of their Darjeelings. Like this 2014 Margaret’s Hope Supreme FF. At DJ38, it has lost the “greeness” in taste and color but this is not particularly a bad thing as it has been replaced by more body and depth.
I had an extremely difficult time trying to find the best brewing parameters for this tea. As a whole, 1st Flush Darjeelings tend to be temperamental but this tea took it to a higher level where even plus/minus 10 seconds of steeping would alter the taste and characteristic of this tea. I tested numerous steeps at 3, 3;30, 4, 4:30. I found the sweet spot at 3:45. I was adjusting tea leaf amount as well. 3Tpsp, 4Tpsp, 5Tpsp, 6Tpsp, and finally the amount which really hit the spot was 7(!)Tpsp. The water temperature remained constant at 195F. After everything was said and done, I settled at 7 teaspoons (actually 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon), water at 195F, steeped for 3 minutes and 45 seconds.
Brew this tea too short and you get a flat light taste. Brew it too long and the astringency begins to assert itself. Use too much tea leaves and you get an overly rich, berry tasting tea. Nail everything down and this teas yields a great tasting cup. It has great depth, moderate body, with a slight taste of astringency complementing and balancing all the flavors this tea has to offer. It also reminds me of why I like 1st Flush Darjeelings so much. Yet requiring 7 teaspoons for 360ml of water is an awful lot of tea to use. Couple that with the premium price of 50 euros and purchasing this tea becomes hard to justify. Is it good enough to command a 14 Euro upcharge from the standard Margaret’s Hope. No. In some ways, I prefer the taste of the standard Margaret’s Hope better than the Supreme.