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Calling all tea lovers, our 2022 first flushes have arrived! It’s time to taste a subtle, delicious and delicate drink. Considered by some to be the finest natural teas of the year, the first flushes are the fruit of the first harvests from Camellia Sinensis.
Between the months of March and May, each year comes the long-awaited spectacle of beautiful soft green young shoots contrasting with the dark green colour of the tea trees. Full to bursting with rich aromatic substances which have slowly built up since the end of winter, they are exactly right for producing the first flushes – the first teas of the year. Their freshness and lively attack with delicious fruity and floral accents are what make them so special. These delicate and airy flavours that stand out from the rounder and more mature taste of the other harvests in the year make these black teas a true delight for the tastebuds, acclaimed by tea lovers all over the world.
This 2022 vintage, having benefited from plenty of rainfall during the first months of the year, had some wonderful surprises in store for us, highlighting the specific characteristics of each garden and the savoir-faire of our Indian partners.
After two years badly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and a terrible period of drought during the winter of 2020 and the spring of 2021, this 2022 harvest was a period of renewal for Darjeeling.
It rained in winter, from January – a rare occurrence in recent years – and also in the spring. The tea trees were therefore able to be properly irrigated and the cloud cover helped protect the young buds from being scorched throughout the harvest, which concentrated all the amino acids, including L-Theanine which is what gives them their soft and sweet character.
In addition, the quantities harvested were very low due to the stringent selection of buds so as to choose only the best.
By bringing together all these factors, we can state the 2022 harvest qualifies as exceptional and each tea turned out to be a little jewel of complexity with the aromatic profile specific to each terroir particularly well highlighted.
When you enter the Rungbang tea garden, near the river from which it gets its name, the appearance of the tea trees immediately takes you by surprise.
Many of them have been left in the wild in the middle of a forest where they feed on the precious humus. The surrounding trees also provide good humidity regulation and above all protect the young buds from being scorched by the sun, which makes the teas particularly sweet.
Originally, the fertile land of this tea garden – situated at an altitude of between 1370 and 1828 metres and where some 145 small producers work today – was used for the production of spices and different varieties of vegetables. But due to the proximity of the forest, the crops were frequently damaged by wild animals. The financial losses suffered by the farmers led them to seek more sustainable cash crops. Since the wild animals did not consume the tea leaves, they began to plant tea. Today, the small producers of Rungbang harvest tea from an area of 72 hectares. Unlike ordinary tea trees, these tea plants are slower growing and have deeper, stronger roots. The buds and leaves of these tea trees have a certain rustic simplicity and produce teas with unique flavours that are the signature of this garden.
Mingqian (明前) are rare first flushes reserved almost exclusively for the Chinese market and represent the quintessence of green teas. Composed exclusively of small buds, they are harvested in the spring from late March to early April before the Qingming Festival (April 5, 2022). The amount harvested each day, entirely by hand, is minimal and it takes 4 kg of fresh leaves to obtain one kilo of finished tea!
We are delighted to be able to offer you grand crus from these minuscule harvests. Their sweetness and their particularly sugary and fruity flavours make them true gourmet teas. With their great aromatic richness, they symbolise the spring awakening of the tea trees after a long period of dormancy. What could be nicer than a cup of Chinese green tea, brewed in a traditional porcelain teapot?
The 2022 Mingqian harvest began on March 20 this year and lasted about two weeks.
Similarly to last year, the health crisis had no impact on producers, as the tea gardens are situated far from major urban centres.
But according to our Chinese partner, in the province of Hubei where the majority of our early teas are produced, the low temperatures this spring interrupted the harvests for a few days, which extended their duration.
On the contrary In Yunnan, and like last year, the spring was particularly dry which reduced the quantity of leaves harvested and therefore the quantity of teas produced.
The tea trees in both cases grew slowly and there were fewer young spring shoots, but they were able to develop complex flavours over a longer period of time.
The spring sap loaded with many nutrients drawn from the soil after the winter rest period was therefore more concentrated in aromatic principles. This 2022 vintage with its rich and particularly sweet and fruity flavours embodies the quintessence of Chinese spring teas…
As soon as the temperature starts to climb, the refreshing prospect of a white tea becomes irresistible! And when it comes to our prestigious ‘Mingqian’, like our Silver Needle, expect a real feast for the tastebuds!
Picked by hand in the province of Yunnan from ancient tea trees, this grand cru is composed entirely of tender buds with the naturally silky and silvery down from which it gets its name.
Unlike green tea, this white tea has not undergone cooking or rolling. The buds have simply been very selectively picked, withered to lose their water content and finally dried in the sun, which gives these « silver needles » a very fresh and natural appeal.
However, having undergone very little in the way of processing, they need hotter water and a longer infusion time than when preparing a green tea. They produce a pretty brew with orange glints, full of gourmet flavours of pears in syrup on a delightful milky and woody background.
As you will have gathered, our 2022 first flushes are packed with flavours which connoisseurs will absolutely delight in. For novices, the way you prepare the tea remains the same. If you follow the instructions on the packet or box, there will be no bitterness: the brew will be fragrant and delicious. So put the kettle on!
Écrit par Les Jardins de Gaïa
Pionniers sur le marché des thés et tisanes bio et équitables, Les Jardins de Gaïa proposent, depuis 1994, des grands crus nature, des classiques et des créations maison originales. Privilégiant les petits producteurs et les récoltes manuelles, ils ont développé au fil des années une gamme généreuse et variée de thés, rooibos et tisanes aux qualités gustatives reconnues, ainsi qu’une gamme d’épices bio et prémiums proposée sous la marque Terra Madre. Tel un jardin épanoui, la force des Jardins de Gaïa tient dans la diversité des terroirs et l’engagement des hommes qui la travaillent…
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