Origin: Makaibari Estate, Darjeeling, India
Vendor: Upton Tea Imports
Price: $15.40 (100g packet) / $17.40 (100g w/ tin)
First of all, sorry for the past week, I have been too busy to update. To make up for it, though, I'll give you a review of a real gem: the 2005 Makaibari Estate FTGFOP1 Organic Vintage Muscatel Second Flush (DJ-102).
Let me start off by saying that this is absolutely my favorite tea. This is by far the most pleasing, breathtaking tea I have ever tried. What is even more amazing is that even though I discovered it quite late (it was made in 2005, and I first tried it a few months ago), it still retains an amazing flavor and a tantalizing aroma. What's more, it's not outrageously expensive. True, it's not what I'd call cheap, but it's still a bargain for such a high quality tea.
Let's start with the dry leaf. As soon as you open the package, you get an extremely pleasant punch in the face (just imagine a lovely floral aroma instead of a big burly fist, and you've got it). Generally "floral" implies light and wispy, but the smell of these leaves is anything but. This tea almost makes me want to take up gardening so I could better describe its smell. (Almost.) Most quality Darjeelings have a nice smell, but this one just seems so... balanced. I really wish I could better describe this, as smelling the dry leaves is really one of the best parts about enjoying this tea. Though the colors of a second flush are rarely as bright as a first flush, there was a very nice mixture of brown, white, and even some green.
Let's move on to brewing. I use my glass teapot (reviewed earlier), so I can be certain that no other tea's flavor will leech into my brew. Anything glazed or made of glass will work just fine. I generally brew for 2 minutes and 30 seconds at around 190°F. I find that Darjeeling teas overbrew very easily when given too much time. I could imagine brewing this tea anywhere from 2 min. 30 sec. up to 3 min, but I would not exceed 3 minutes, as it begins to get bitter around this time. Of course, your tastes may differ, and I tend to brew for a shorter period of time than a lot of people. You could also use boiling water, but I find boiling water to be just a tad rough on Darjeelings.
Ah, the best part-- the drinking. If brewed with the conditions I have given, this tea is light and ethereal, just how I like my Darjeelings to be. The flavor profile of this tea is the best balanced of any I have tried so far-- a nice floral front note, a light astringency throughout that provides just enough contrast without being bitter, and a lingering sweet fruity end note. There is definitely a lot of muscatel ("muscatel" is a common Darjeeling term that refers to the flavor of the muscat family of grapes) flavor, as expected given the name, and there is also a subtle hint of almond. It is nicely mellow, as a second flush should be, with very little harshness. This tea is excellent hot or iced, though it rarely sits around long enough to get put in the fridge.
If you are in the market for any Indian tea, especially Assams or Darjeelings, and if you're in North America, check out Upton Tea Imports. They have a truly epic selection of teas (which can be a bit intimidating), especially from India. They sell high quality teas for very reasonable prices, and they include packing dates on all of their packets and tins. The harvest year of many of their teas is not mentioned, which I don't really like, but other than that I have no complaints about good ol' Upton.
There really is nothing bad about this tea, in my opinion. The people over at Makaibari definitely knew what they were doing when they made this tea, and it is no wonder that the Makaibari Estate is such a big name in the Darjeeling world. From it's captivating aroma to its delicate, refined flavor, Makaibari's 2005 Vintage Muscatel Second Flush gets a 9.5/10.