Muscatel Tea and its Unique Characters

Connoisseurs and enthusiasts of tea are often on the search for unique and exciting flavors of true tea that engage the senses. Among the brilliant flavors that can be crafted from the single tea plant: Camellia Sinensis, muscatel flavors stand out for their sweet wine-like flavor notes. 

That's right: muscatel notes are usually associated with fine wines created from muscat grapes. Muscat grapes, which grow into a variety of shades, from pale white, yellow and pink to deep red and black shades, are used to brew some of the finest wines in the world First thriving in the Mediterranean region, muscat grapes have now evolved into diverse varieties and cultivars. Though such a range of muscat grapes exist, they all share the same captivating spicy and honey-like aroma, prized in fine wines. 

The origins of muscatel notes in tea, however, doesn't come from muscat grapes. Though fascinatingly similar in taste and aroma, muscatel notes in tea arise completely free of muscat grapes. In this blog, we'll explore how muscat notes arise in tea leaves. 

Intro to Muscat Notes in True Teas: 

Muscat notes in tea are generally elusive. They were first discovered during the second flush summer harvests of Darjeeling tea. Teas harvested from Nepal's high-altitude farms during the second flush also have distinct muscatel notes, such as our KTE Muscatel Reserve and our White Prakash white tea, an atypical white tea that is also sometimes referred to as silvery oolong. 

True teas, which are loose-leaf teas cultivated from the plant Camellia Sinensis, are crafted without the addition of any other flavorings from fruits, flowers, herbs or spices. The flavors true teas exude arise from characteristics inherent to the varietal and cultivar of the plant, along with the landscape in which it was grown, the climate, the season during which the leaves were plucked, and the manner in which the leaves were processed. 

Read more: Nepal's Rare Climate and Rare Teas

This means that no muscat grapes are used in the production of teas with muscatel notes. So how then do these teas have the spicy, honeyed grape aroma congruent with fine muscat wines? 

Fine Muscatel Tea

Fascinating flavors from intriguing ecosystems: 

It is surprising for most people to learn that the sweet, delicate and luxurious muscat flavors in tea actually comes from an environmental interaction of tea leaves with small insects jassids and thirpes. As the heat rises during the summer months, these sap-feeding insects rise in number in the high-altitude tea gardens of South Asia. 

As the insects nibble on the young tea leaves, they cause damage to the tender leaves. In defense, the tea leaves produce an insect-repelling compound, terpene. While terpene is toxic to the insects, it is harmless to consume by humans, and when the leaves with high concentrations of terpene is mildly oxidized, it produces a grape-like, aromatic muscat flavors in the tea. 

This is also an interesting reason why our white tea, White Prakash, contains muscatel flavors. While other White Teas go through minimal processing, White Prakash, harvested during the second flush, go through a gentle rolling process that always them to gently ferment. This process highlights the sweet, spicy and musky notes that are reminiscent of muscat grapes in wine. 

Conclusion: Wine-Like and Elegant 

Though muscat wines and teas with muscatel notes are created through different processes, the sensorial enjoyment of both the wine and the tea are alike. The heady grape flavors found in muscatel tea mirrors the tasting experience of savoring fine muscatel wines.

Just as wine enthusiasts appreciate the layers of taste in a well-aged vintage, tea lovers relish the multifaceted profile of muscatel tea, with delicate floral undertones and smooth, round impressions. Muscatel flavors create a bridge between the worlds of tea and wine, inviting enthusiasts to explore the complexity of both beverages.


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