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First Flush Tea refers to the timing of the tea harvest: The pluck of the shoot after the dormant winter months. The shoots of the young tea bush absorb all the essential oils during the winter months thus creating a rich, aromatic and flavourful cup. These are usually delicate and tender and therefore light and floral in aroma with a pleasant astringency. It refers to the plucking season, of which, each has its distinctive flavour. First flush teas are prized for their delicate taste. The plucking seasons are:
First Flush (Feb-April), Second Flush (May-June), Monsoon Flush (July-September), and Autumnal Flush (October-November).
Second Flush 'Muscatel': The term is applied to tea which has an aromatic bouquet rather like the muscatel grape. The characteristics of this very rare bouquet are due to an insect - jassid. When the insect bites into the tender leaves the jassid causes changes in the leaf. Only a few tea estates which have mastered the art of capturing the bouquet that the insect produces and are able to sell the teas at the best prices are ready to risk encouraging the insect. The aroma is rich and fruity with hint of woodiness with spicy undertones.
White Tea: Only the bud is plucked in the early months of March - April and is manufactured just once a year. It has the maximum amount of antioxidants. The liquor is pale yellow and the aroma is honeyed. The flavour is mildly sweet and delicate.
Oolong is also known as semi-processed tea. Since it is partially oxidised, it is half green and half black tea. The processing stops the fermentation in the between resulting in a reddish cup and malted flavour. It has a hint of smokiness and is buttery to the nose. The unfolded leaf appears tough and whole.
(All information courtesy Anamika Singh of Anandini in the Himalaya)