All about Nepali First Flush Tea: Fresh Blossoms of the Himalayan Spring-Time

The tea world we know gleams with treasures. To an avid tea lover, tea is not just the box of tea bags you toss into your shopping cart, not just a bag you throw into your cup of hot water for some light caffeine, but rare and precious leaves harvested from specialty gardens around the world.

And one of these treasures that gleams most brightly is the rare First Flush Tea that hail from the Himalayan gardens of South-East Asia. 

First Flush Black Tea

What is First Flush Tea? 

First Flush teas are also known as the Spring Harvest, or the King Harvest, because they are the very first harvest of spring. The leaves of this harvest are the most tender and delicate of all, lending to an exceptionally smooth and light brew, with an aroma that is just intoxicating. 

As the Spring Harvest, First Flush teas are hand-plucked from early to late March, but tea connoisseurs the world over make sure to book their share of teas well in advance. The nature of this harvest makes it so that only a limited quantity of First Flush tea leaves are available each year, and if you miss out on the Spring harvest, you have no choice but to wait until next Spring! 

How is First Flush Tea Made? 

First Flush tea is the wonderful product of Himalayan seasonality. Both the icy winter and the pristine, blooming spring of the high altitude tea mountains in Darjeeling and Nepal have a role to play in fostering the highly prized First Flush tea leaves. 

Unlike the low-land tea gardens around the world that experience little climatic variations, the high-altitude tea mountains along Darjeeling and Nepal experience cold and harsh winters. The snowy mists descending from the western Himalayan belt of Nepal leaves a mystical layer of frost over the young Nepali tea plants. 

Tea bushes by nature are highly adaptive to the environment they grow in. To conserve energy during the cold weather, high-altitude tea bushes produce very little leaves during the winter months. At the same time, they produce higher amounts of natural compounds that protect and nourish the bush through the harsh season. During this time, we say that the tea bushes are dormant. You can think of them as being in a deep sleep, awaiting the warmer weather. 

The arrival of Spring awakens the tea bushes from their slumber. During this time, as temperature rises and the snow in the upper Himalayas begin to melt, the tea mountains of Nepal come alive. The surrounding forests become blanketed in the deep and brilliant Rhododendron flowers, and the song of birds echo across the mountain valleys. The tea gardens that cover large areas of Nepal’s Eastern Mountains turn into a dazzling shade of bright green, flush with young and extremely tender tea leaves. 

Nepali tea mountains come alive during the Spring in more ways than one. Tea farmers, pluckers and producers all await Spring with great excitement, anticipating the great awakening of their sleeping tea bushes. Once Spring does arrive, Nepali astrologers analyze the skies and chart the most auspicious time (which translates to Saait) for the very first tea plucking event. 

The first pluck of the season is conducted with great care, because it is believed that the first pluck sets the precedence for the rest of the harvests to follow. Prayers for blessing and good luck are followed by the first, gentle plucking of the first few leaves. After the rites and rituals are completed, the first harvest follows. 

First Flush Flavors and Aroma: 

Typically, the first flush harvest is made into black teas. Because they are crafted to capture the fresh taste of spring, the tea is unlike any other black tea. You’ll often find a greenish hue to the dry tea leaves that sets First Flush apart from even the second harvest of spring, not to mention the second flush (the summer harvest). You’ll also be surprised to find that the leaves brew into a pale and deeply perfumed liquor, unlike any other black tea you’ve ever tried. 

As the leaves are extremely delicate, First Flush tea is often processed by highly trained tea makers with decades of tea mastery. Tea producers make many different types of tea before they move onto the processing of First Flush tea – a tea that demands precision and expertise. 

The skill of tea tea master is often reflected in the final brew. Though First Flush teas from Nepal are often made into black teas, meaning that they follow the processing techniques of withering, rolling, oxidation, and drying or ‘kill green’, First Flush teas brew into a pale, silvery liquor with a smooth and bright floral flavor and heady floral aromas. We owe this specialty of First Flush leaves to the tenderness of the first spring blossoms. 

For those of us who are used to dark and bold black teas, First Flush teas offer a refreshing sweetness and uplifting lightness, capturing the feeling of experiencing Spring on the Himalayas. 

Brewing First Flush teas: 

If you’re lucky to have gotten your share of the freshest First Flush of the year from Nepal, which is usually made available to you within just 20 days of the first pluck, you’re in for a wonderful treat. The fresher the tea leaves are, the more fragrant and heady the brew will be. 

Many worry that they might brew their precious First Flush tea leaves wrong. You don't have to worry! Part of the process of enjoying the Spring Harvest from the Himalayas is to rejoice in the incredible beauty and bounty of this world, and to relax into the hope that the year will bring abundance. Brewing a pot of First Flush Nepali tea is akin to saying a sweet and simple prayer, made with a peaceful mind and a grateful heart. 

So don’t worry – simply let your First Flush tea leaves brew in a pot of water that is just below the boiling point for 2 - 3 minutes. For optimal fragrance and the sweetest flavors of Nepal’s spring-time, make sure you don’t over-steep your teas! 

How to Buy First Flush Teas from Nepal: 

Spring-time is vivid and beautiful, but it is fleeting. First flush is the same. Because the First Flush is only the first harvest of Spring, it is always available in very limited quantities. And because so many tea lovers from all over the world wait all year in anticipation of the new Spring flush of the new year, it doesn’t take a long time for all the First Flush tea to run out at all. 

So the best thing you can do to get your own First Flush teas is to book yours early on! You can get your package of Nepal Tea Collective’s very special First Flush ‘24, with flavor notes that are Sweet, Floral with smooth vegetal undertones, by signing up for them today. 

We hope you get to enjoy this year’s Spring Harvest, and wish you a wonderful year ahead! 

 


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