Autumnal Flush in Darjeeling 2011

Since the beginning of October, we have been peeking towards the Darjeeling gardens, awaiting the autumnal harvests. It is in the mid-October when the Himalayan “autumnal” plucking starts every year. The news from the East is favourable this year. It has grown cold, which is very good for the tea bushes and it indicates a quality harvest to come. The information from our friends and business partners suggests that teas of best quality should be picked in the first week of November. They say there is much to look for.Let us remind you of an interview with the Goomtee garden owner, Mr. Ashok Kumar, made two years ago.

Autumnal Flush – Questions for Mr. Kumar

Autumnal Flush is picked in Darjeeling from early October to late November. These are full darker teas with notably fruity or nutty aroma and liquor of bright copper colour. Some connoisseurs even prefer the third flushes to the more popular first or second flushes precisely for their round sweet and full taste. How is the decision to start the Autumnal Flush made? Where is the division line between individual harvests?

Ashok Kumar: Actually, there is no real division between harvests, because the tea bushes grow on hillsides from 600 to 1800 metres above sea level with corresponding temperatures. The character of plucked leaves thus changes gradually in the course of approximately two weeks. What are the differences in processing the Autumnal Flush compared to the First and Second ones?

Ashok Kumar: The processing is the same for all harvests: wilting, rolling, oxidation and drying to reduce the original humidity in green leaves from 78 % to 3 %. Everything else is alchemy of the plant manager. How does the Autumnal Flush differ from the First and Second Flushes in terms of quantity of produced tea? Does it influence tea prices?

Ashok Kumar: A very small quantity of tea harvested in the Autumnal Flush (about 5 – 10 % of the yearly production) is given by the cold weather. Naturally, the prices of genuine autumnals are higher with regard to the limited quantity. What do you personally most appreciate on Autumnal Flush?

Ashok Kumar: Genuine autumnal teas must have a full and rich flavour, significantly darker liquor and distinct flavour. They should not be light and flowery like teas from the First Flush or “abundant” like the Second Flush. Your garden is known for only growing tea bushes of the Chinese type. Is it intentional? Have you ever experimented with tea plant cloning? What is your opinion on this?

Ashok Kumar: We take very good care of our original Chinese tea plants, because they bear and create the traditional character of Darjeeling teas. Teas from clonal bushes are certainly good and their taste is distinguishable, but I prefer Chinese plants.

Ashok Kumar
Owner of the Goomtee Garden and Board Member of the Darjeeling Planters Association.
Mr. Ashok’s father, Mahabir Prasad, purchased the garden from the Rana royal family in mid-1950’s and managed its operation until his death in 1996. Since that time, Mr. Ashok is the head of the family business and has played an active role in tea trade for thirty years.

Family Heirloom
In 1899, the Garden was founded by British pioneer Henry Lennox and later on it was taken over by famous planter G. W. O‘Brien. After World War II, the royal Rana family of Nepal purchased it. In mid-1950‘s, the garden was purchased by Mr. Mahabir Prasad and the Kejriwal family, Indian tea pioneers. During the last 50 years, the plantation and the factory underwent a complete renovation. The current management headed by Mr. Ashok Kumar is focused on maintaining the traditional ways of tea growing.

The Autumnal Flush is picked from early October to late November. These are full darker teas with noticeable fruity or nutty aromas and liquor of bright copper colour. Genuine teas from autumnal flush only represent 5 – 10 % of yearly production, thus they are rather expensive.

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