Jethikupi White, Rohini Estate first flush white Darjeeling
This tea was presented as a Jethikupi White Darjeeling from Rohini Estate, a first flush tea. This is a good time to touch on the basic differences between a white tea and black tea, related to a graphic showing minimum processing steps per type:
World of Tea processing steps chart (credit)
Given that first flush Darjeelings aren't typically fully oxidized (true black teas) there's even less character difference than for more conventional black teas, related to those rolling and oxidation steps dropping out. On to review.
The tea looks and smells great, with very light leaf material and buds. The scent is fresh and fragrant, floral with a good bit of citrus.
The taste of the initial infusion is very bright and fresh. Flavors are subdued due to going light on this infusion, basically using a light steeping / long rinse to get the tea started, but it’s clear where it’s all going. The brightness and freshness stands out the most, and beyond that individual attributes, floral tones, a bit of citrus, sweetness that ties in light fruit aspects with the floral range, even a trace of light dried hay for complexity.
same leaves, closer up
The tea has a round type of feel and sweet, drinkable character which I’ve come to associate with the AV2 plant type characteristics (although it's not exactly that; the plant type is listed as 157 clones). That freshness seems to relate to capturing a floral tone in a unique way, like a light and sweet wildflower scent and taste, bright, but hinting towards the bright and light vegetal range. I don’t mean this tea tastes like kale or spinach, quite the opposite, instead that the scent of a picked flower would include a lightness from both the petals and also some hint of leaves and stem. It’s not astringent, at all, very soft in effect, so nothing like the dandelion taste (for anyone that’s tasted those), on the far opposite side of that range too. It's also fruity, it's just not obvious which fruit or fruits to include as a list of aspects, something bright, perhaps with enough complexity maybe more than one.
For using relatively low water temperature and limited infusion times the tea has plenty of flavor and character. Lighter seems to be the way to go for this tea, not as for sheng pu’er because that’s going to balance out the astringency and bitterness that normal brewing intensity turns up, but because it provides lots of taste prepared that way; it just works well. It’s as for Wuyi Yancha; brewing a strong infusion of good versions of those teas would almost waste them, spoiling some of the effect of presenting the attributes in their most natural balance.
On the next infusion the floral picks up even a little more. It transitions from a light wildflower floral scent to heavier, moving just a little towards a richer flower type effect, lavender or orchid, or something like that. I’ve still not resolved that floral scent memory issue, so I don’t have a broad flower impression bank to draw on. There is still a lot of other range giving the tea complexity, including a nice citrusy high note, in addition to other fruit, in the range of orange zest, but so light that it’s in between tangerine and lemon instead. Even though the tea is light and bright it’s also complex, with more taste range filling in depth that is harder to notice but present, something like dried hay or sunflower seed, but subtle enough that pinning down specific related flavors is difficult.
It’s too early to push the tea to try to get more out of it, even though 3 or 4 infusions in, but I went slightly hotter on the water for a slightly longer steep to see how the tea balanced brewed this way, while it still had a lot to offer. It’s quite intense made this way, but not overdoing it. I still think lighter is the right way to enjoy this tea, for me, but it’s interesting seeing the change. The floral picks up strength to become perfume-like.
only the smaller one is a tea drinker, at this point
Floral is still heavy but even more fruit undertone joins in, similar to that taste in juicyfruit gum, bright, sweet, and complex. That taste is a little towards pandan leaf or Fruity Pebbles cereal, if that gum reference doesn’t ring a bell. The fruit aspect is pronounced and complex but I've not done it justice isolating it; it seems best described as a mix of different fruits, maybe something like tangerine / lemon citrus with peach and apricot, just a bright version of those, complicated further by floral tones joining in.
It’s described as a white tea but the character is interesting. It reminds me some of the Nepalese whites I’ve drank in the past, the best versions. That’s backwards, that comparison, isn’t it? Those should be trying to be like this. Either way they achieve some related effects, a lightness and brightness, good sweetness, lots of floral character and fruit, and nothing negative to detract from all that. This may just be a little cleaner and brighter, but then I have tried a couple of really nice white teas from Nepal. Let's check on the vendor description for more insight:
It has a tantalizing sweet aroma of ripe fruits with abundant fresh flavor. The cup is very fruity and mellow with rich notes. The flavor is full and it leaves behind a very pleasant and distinct aftertaste. The low temperatures experienced during Winters impart a very distinct character to the tea.
That's it, but as can happen the aspects and flavors list approach doesn't really do justice to how bright and fresh the tea comes across. It's intense.