These leaves hail from the Singbulli tea estate, which is located in the Mirik area of Darjeeling. Singbulli covers an area of 474 hectares at between 400 and 1350 metres altitude spread over 9 hills.
This, then is a Darjeeling – a first flush, SFTGFOP1 (Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe – Grade 1). The interesting plot twist here is that according to the notes on the Lübecker Teekontor website the leaves were processed in the style of an Oolong, reducing the oxidation level to what Lübecker Teekontor refer to as “a little“.
As I do with all Darjeelings, I went with a broadly Western style approach – 3 grams of leaf for a 2dl ceramic pot. My game plan was for 3 infusions, of 1½, 2, and 3 minutes duration.
The brewing suggestions on the packaging suggested using water at 100°C, which I thought was a little too hot for such fine, lightly oxidised leaves, but I thought that for the sake of experimentation alone I’d try it, to see if the packaging knew something I didn’t.
What I found was that the hotter water ramped up the astringency level to such an extent that it came close to overpowering the delicate floral, fruity qualities of the liquor.
Furthermore, it shortened the life of the session considerably, making the 2nd. infusion just about drinkable, and the 3rd. virtually unpalatable.
Dropping the water temperature down to what I guessed would be a 90°C sweet spot hit the jackpot.
The cooler water allowed all the Darjeeling floral notes, plus a conjoined sweet citrusy (what does orange blossom smell like?, I suddenly began to wonder…) thing to shine.
A very Oolong like brown sugar thing sort of shuffled in round the back, an although there was still a touch of astringency here, it was drastically reduced to a much lower level, becoming a refreshing counterpoint to all the sweet, flowery stuff.
Another effect of the drop in water temperature was that the second steeping was vastly improved, and a third steeping produced a drinkable liquor, albeit one that was clearly signalling that the session was over at that point.
It would be interesting to see just how Singbulli have processed these very fine leaves, seeing as generally speaking Oolongs tend to be made from one relatively large leaf, to wit more robust material that can withstand more energetic treatment.
In conclusion, then, this is an interesting Darjeeling from a well known estate, and certainly worth a closer look if teas from that part of the world rattle your teacups.