Discover Indian Tea with Golden Tips

indianteapicking

Blessings friends and welcome to the KittyLovesTea blog.

I realise that so far on my blog I have done Chinese and Japanese teas with European, Canadian and American blends but virtually nothing on Indian teas.

Lets start with some facts: 

  1. Tea was first introduced into India by the British, in an attempt to break the Chinese monopoly on tea.
  2. The British, “using Chinese seeds, plus Chinese planting and cultivating techniques, launched a tea industry by offering land in Assam to any European who agreed to cultivate tea for export.”
  3. Maniram Dewan (1806-1858) was the first Indian tea planter
  4. Tea was originally only consumed by Anglicized Indians, and it was not until the 1920s (and in rural North India, the 1950s) that tea grew widely popular.
  5. Prior to the British, the plant may have been used for medicinal purposes.
  6. In the early 1820s, the British East India Company began large-scale production of tea in Assam.
  7. In 1837, the first English tea garden was established at Chabua in Upper Assam.
  8. In 1840, the Assam Tea Company began the commercial production of tea in the region, run by indentured servitude of the local inhabitants.
  9. Beginning in the 1850s, the tea industry rapidly expanded, consuming vast tracts of land for tea plantations.
  10. By the turn of the century, Assam became the leading tea producing region in the world.

For more facts and an in depth history please read the link below. (This is also where the facts listed above came from)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_tea_in_India

As a British born citizen I do find it troubling to comprehend the slavery and abuse that we capitalized worldwide. In this sense India’s tea history is also our own, and as happy as I am to have deep roots with tea it saddens me in the way it was done. I don’t mean to change the tone, my aim is to show that whilst it makes me proud to drink Indian tea I will also never forget the history (good and bad) behind it.

Last year I was contacted by Golden Tips, an Indian tea company established in 1933. As we now know based on the 10 facts above that makes Golden Tips one of the oldest established tea companies in India. They offer a wide selection of pure Indian teas including samplers and a monthly subscription club. They were kind enough to send me a box of teas to try from their subscription club. I received 10 samples of which I will pick 5 diverse samples to review.

http://goldentipstea.com/

Darjeeling

When I think of Indian tea I think of Darjeeling in particular, it’s one of my favourite teas (especially in summer) and a muscatel Darjeeling is unlike anything else. Darjeeling is a region of India and it grows more than one type of tea, though when we talk about Darjeeling tea we are talking about their infamous black tea.

Darjeeling comes in two forms, first flush and second flush.

First Flush – The leaves are harvested in Spring from roughly early February to the middle of May. This produces a light, fragrant and floral Darjeeling.

Second Flush – The leaves are picked at the end of Summer and throughout Autumn. This produces a dark and muscatel Darjeeling.

In comparison: First Flush teas are lighter, floral and fresher whereas Second Flush teas are dark, earthy and musky. First Flush teas tend to be more expensive as a smaller amount of tea is produced through this season, also once steeped they are very light and resemble a mixture of green teas and Oolong, far too light for milk. Whereas a Second Flush tea will be more similar to a standard black tea, so much so that it can be taken with milk and sugar. Also it will be richer and darker in flavour and appearance. On the whole it comes down to personal preference.

From Golden Tips I will be trying:

Okayti Muscatel Darjeeling 

http://goldentipstea.com/products/okayti-muscatel-darjeeling-second-flush-organic-black-tea

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  • Origin: Darjeeling, India
  • Estate: Okayti
  • Date of Picking: 3rd June 2014
  • Flush/Season: Second/Summer
  • Grade: FTGFOP1 MUSK
  • Speciality: Single Estate

One thing to note – FTGFOP1 means:

Finest TGF OP—highest quality grade (Note: “Special” is occasionally substituted for “Finest”, with a number 1 at the end to indicate the very finest), often hand processed and produced at only the best plantations, roughly one quarter tips

If you are every unsure then check it out, I know at first it seems like a different language but just remember: the internet is your friend.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_leaf_grading

Golden Tips offers some wonderful background information on their teas, the information above (in regards to date of picking etc) is actually printed on the front of the pouches. This is invaluable for customers as you will know exactly what to expect when your tea arrives. On top of the packets information their website also offers information to the likes of: Elevation, Fermentation and Caffeine.

Thanks to this I can see that the Okayti – Muscatel Darjeeling is: Grown above 1500 meters, fully fermented (it is a black tea don’t forget) and it contains medium caffeine levels, it even states that this tea is suited best for afternoon drinking.

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In appearance this Darjeeling consists of: small and dark, curly leaves which range from dark brown, to red brown, to green to white.

It has a sweet yet earthy scent of wood and flowers. Also a touch of malt and dry musk .

  • Brewing:
  • 10g (roughly 5 teaspoons) of leaves
  • Steeped in 1 litre of water
  • With a temperature of 100C or boiling
  • For a time of 4 minutes

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 Once steeped this tea is amber in colour and has a dry, musky yet sweet wood scent.

Flavour is rich and dark with a hint of sour astringency. It’s very wooden and musky which lingers in the mouth beautifully. Also reminds me of dry, mixed flowers.

As it cools the wood becomes more like malt and the astringency develops an air of light smoke.

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Overall: This was a beautiful Darjeeling that bared heavy muscatel tones and offered the warmth of the Indian sun. A great example of what a second flush Darjeeling should be.

On the grand scale of things this Darjeeling was very nice but not perfect, it was missing the nutty and creamy qualities that I admire. Please keep in mind that it is down to personal preference.

For that reason I rate this tea as 8/10.

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Assam

If I go back to thinking about Indian tea I would also think of Assam. As the information above states, Assam was the first tea growing region in India that was especially for the consumption of tea. Now a days many teas grow in Assam but they are especially known for their black tea. In general Assam is rich, spicy and full of flavour, this is particularly why I love it. Not just me, my husband is also partial to a nice pot of Assam.

From Golden Tips I will be trying:

Mankota Exotic Assam 

http://goldentipstea.com/products/mankotta-second-flush-assam-black-tea

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  • Origin: Assam, India
  • Estate: Mankota
  • Date of Picking: 27th June 2014
  • Flush/Season: Second/Summer
  • Grade: TGFOP1 CL
  • Speciality: Single Estate

I can also add that this tea was: Grown above 1100 meters, is fully fermented and has medium caffeine levels which is best suited in the morning and evening.

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In appearance this tea consists of: small, dark and curly leaves with some stems and golden tips present.

It smells sweet and woody with elements of cocoa, malt and smoke.

  • Brewing:
  • 10g (roughly 5 teaspoons) of leaves
  • Steeped in 1 litre of water
  • With a temperature of 100C or boiling
  • For a time of 4 minutes

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Once steeped this tea is garnet in colour and has a light malt scent with a hint of fresh wood.

Flavour is medium/strong in strength with rich malt tones that are slightly astringent and smoky. Also has a dark fruit flavour which goes into the after taste, prunes and dates in particular. Some dryness is present throughout.

As it cools it becomes more dry and seems thicker, especially the malt tones. Also getting fresh tobacco and wood shavings.

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Overall: This was pretty much as I predicted: it was rich, it was dark and very full of flavour. The fruit flavours made me think of a few Taiwanese blacks that I have tried recently, so while this had Assam qualities it also kept my tasting fresh and interesting. That being said I prefer a more classic Assam. Also the quality was again very good.

For those reasons I rate this tea: 7.5/10

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White Tea 

I will admit that when I think of Indian tea I get so carried away with the black teas that I forget virtually everything else. I feel that some may also not consider India for a source of white tea, though it produces some wonderful samples.

From Golden Tips I shall be trying:

Okayti Silver Needle 

http://goldentipstea.com/products/okayti-silver-needle-darjeeling-second-flush-organic-white-tea

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  • Origin: Darjeeling, India
  • Estate: Okayti
  • Date of Picking: 15th June 2014
  • Flush/Season: Second/Summer
  • Grade: FTGFOP1
  • Speciality: Single Estate

I can also note that this tea is: grown above 1500 metres, is only lightly fermented and the caffeine levels are low, making it suitable for all day drinking.

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In appearance this tea consists of: long, thin leaves that are covered with silver hairs. Some are darker in colour though they still have the silver hairs.

They have a sweet, light and floral scent that is dry and almost perfumed.

  • Brewing:
  • 10g (roughly 5 teaspoons) of leaves
  • Steeped in 1 litre of water
  • With a temperature of 85C
  • For a time of 4 minutes

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Once steeped this tea is light orange in colour and has a light, floral and sweet scent.

Flavour is light to medium in strength and bares a floral sweetness. It’s dry and nutty which comes through in the after taste. Also elements of light peach which contrast nicely against the peony and honeysuckle notes. It has no astringency.

As it cools it becomes creamy though remains highly sweet and dry.

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Overall: This was a delicious white tea, full of flavour and of great quality.

While I am not the hugest fan of white tea in general I do appreciate a nice pot of it from time to time. This particular type had more flavour and strength than I anticipated which made it a wonderful drink. At times it reminded me of a light Oolong rather than a white tea, and the quality as shown in the after steep picture blew me away.

For that reason I rate this tea as 9/10.

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Green Tea 

Another type of Indian grown tea that may be overlooked is green tea. In recent years the consumption of green tea in India has doubled thanks to it’s health benefits.

From Golden Tips I will be trying:

Avaata Supreme Nilgiri 

http://goldentipstea.com/products/avaata-supreme-2014-first-flush-nilgiri-green-tea

goldentipsgreen1

  • Origin: Nilgiri, India
  • Estate: Avaata
  • Date of Picking: 1st April 2014
  • Flush/Season: First/Spring
  • Grade: SFTGFOP1
  • Speciality: Single Estate

I can also note that this tea is: grown above 1900 metres, not fermented and has low caffeine which makes it best suited for afternoon consumption.

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In appearance the leaves are: long and mostly whole with some rolled and others open. Some are silver and covered in white hairs.

They have a dry yet light floral scent with elements of wood, grass and musk.

  • Brewing:
  • 10g (roughly 5 teaspoons) of leaves
  • Steeped in 1 litre of water
  • With a temperature of 80C
  • For a time of 3 minutes

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Once steeped this tea is light amber in colour and has a light yet crisp and sweet grassy scent.

Flavour is light to medium in strength with sweet grass and floral tones. It’s a little dry which adds a savoury touch and tones down the sweetness. Specifically I can taste: grass, sweet pea, gardenia and wheat. The after taste of sweet flowers lingers in the mouth for a long time.

As it cools it becomes slightly astringent.

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Overall: The flavours were nice and pure and I did enjoy the savoury wheat taste, that made it rather unique and different from what I expected. However it did not strike me as amazing, though the quality was very good. I’m trying to think of why it wasn’t amazing but I cannot explain it, something was missing for me…perhaps my love of vegetal and seaweed greens like those found in Japanese varieties have changed my preferred taste when it comes to greentea.

For that reason I rate this tea: 8/10

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Chai 

I could never think of India without craving chai. Masala Chai translates literally to: Spiced Tea. India is well known for it’s black tea and spices, chai is a way to experience the best of both. There are many different varieties of chai over the world including some  recipes that are passed down as a family tradition. However, there is nothing like Masala Chai, the original and arguable best spiced tea available.

From Golden Tips I will be trying:

India’s Original Masala Chai 

http://goldentipstea.com/products/mastea-premium-masala-chai

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  • Origin: Assam
  • Grade: CTC / FTGFOP1
  • Speciality: Signature Blend

The base tea is blended with exotic and fresh Indian spices including crushed cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, long pepper, dry ginger and clove.

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In appearance this blend consists of: small black tea pieces with noticeable cinnamon stick pieces, clove pieces and green leaves of some kind.

It smells of cardamom, clove and cinnamon in particular. A little dry but very refreshing and citrus(y) with a spicy, peppery finish.

  • Brewing:
  • 10g (roughly 5 teaspoons) of leaves
  • Steeped in 1 litre of water
  • With a temperature of 100C
  • For a time of 4 minutes

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Once steeped this tea is dark reddish brown in colour and has a sweet yet spicy aromatic scent.

Please note: A drop of milk was added.

Flavour is medium in strength with crisp, spice notes. It’s a little dry from the spices but the milk helps. Spice wise I can taste the cardamom, cinnamon, clove and pepper which pretty much matches it’s raw scent. The cardamom in particular freshens the blend and adds some sweetness whilst perfuming my mouth in the after taste.

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Overall: I found this Chai to be a particularly dark blend which is perfect for adding milk. It can be enjoyed without milk but it may be slightly astringent or too dry. That is all personal preference, though usually Chai is served with milk as standard.

I have sampled many Chai in my years and this is certainly one of the darker, ‘full on’ blends that I tend to favour. The spices are strong but not too much and though dry it’s not an issue once milk is added. It’s a very nice example of a classic Masala Chai. My only criticism is that I love sweet Chai and my all time favourites contain almond, though again that is down to personal taste.

For those reasons I rate this: 7.5/10.

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I want to thank Golden Tips Tea once again for their delicious samples. They were all fresh, well packaged and labelled with handy information including steeping instructions. Plus their website has a large range of authentic Indian teas, I have no doubt that I will be placing an order with them soon. My birthday is coming up soon after all :)

Thank you for reading friends, until next time.

Happy Steeping!