Continuation of the Lochan Tea Ltd. sample tasting.
The "Muscatel Delights" category includes:
•2007 Lochan Muscatel Delight 2nd Flush,
•2007 Margaret's Hope Spl. Muscatel Delight 2nd Flush,
•2006 Margaret's Hope Spl. Muscatel Delight 2nd Flush, and
•2007 Jungpana Organic Imperial Delight Muscatel 2nd Flush.
I'm glad Ankit included both the 2006 and 2007 from Margaret's Hope, so I could get a good idea of what time does to a Darjeeling. Of course, batch to batch variations ensure that one can never really get a perfect match from year to year, so it's not a perfect single-variable experiment. (Still, variety is the spice of life, no? I'm sure it will be interesting.)
For these teas, I employed the same parameters I used for the previous group: 5.0g, 12 oz. of off-boiling filtered tap water, glass teapot, and 2:00 (minutes, not hours).
2007 Lochan Muscatel Delight
The dry leaf here is fairly standard-looking for a Darjeeling; it smells like wood, flowers, muscat, and apple. Mmm!
The liquor is the solid orange-amber I've come to expect from 2nd flush Darjeelings. It has a pleasant thickness in the mouth. It is sweet, with a lovely muscatel flavor. There is only a hint of woodsiness, and just enough astringency to leave a lingering hui gan on the tongue. There is quite a strong aftertaste which tastes of muscatel and, curiously, apple juice. I wasn't so much surprised that there was an apple flavor, since I thought I smelled it in the dry leaf, but I was impressed by just how much the aftertaste tasted like apple juice. This is an excellent Darjeeling-- probably my favorite of the bunch (so far, anyway).
2007 Margaret's Hope Spl. Muscatel Delight
A sweet floral and fruity aroma is emitted from the dry leaf, and hints of wood and spice can be detected upon closer inspection. The leaves (shown left, below) show good color and size.
This liquor is slightly lighter than the Lochan Muscatel's, but it is still a deep amber. To compare flavors to music, this tea is predominantly composed of high notes. It is noticeably sweeter than most Darjeelings I've tried, and also quite crisp. There is a good muscatel note, complemented by a touch of vanilla and some wood/herb. There was a bit of an unpleasant alkaline flavor in its woodiness, but otherwise I thought this tea was very good.
2006 Margaret's Hope Spl. Muscatel Delight
This tea was, by far, the most unique of the bunch. I'm not sure if I like it more or less than the 2007, but it is certainly an interesting diversion from the other more similar Darjeelings. The fragrance from the dry leaf is much more profound, smooth, and rounded than that of the 2007 teas. Apples, grapes, and wood/flowers dominate. The leaves look a bit browner than the 2007 Margaret's Hope, but they also seem a bit more whole.
The liquor is a mystery. While it is the same amber color, the flavor is quite obviously different. What isn't so obvious is how it is different. It is sweet, and significantly stronger in its fruit and floral flavors— the muscatel really stands out. I think. It's hard to say whether the flavors are stronger or just less obstructed by the general "tea" flavor. There is little astringency, and not much of a hui gan or aftertaste. Overall, a very interesting and enriching gustatory and olfactory experience. I'll definitely be drinking more of this one.
2007 Jungpana Organic Imperial Delight Muscatel
These dry leaves also had a rounder, fuller aroma, much like the 2006 Margaret's Hope. Muscatel and flowers are predominant. They are more whole (this is reflected in the wet leaf) and darker than most Darjeelings, too.
Regrettably, this tea had to follow the previous three. It is very good, but sadly a bit thinner and flatter than the others. It has a crisp flavor, gentle astringency, and a good hui gan, but I don't notice anything unique like the others had. There is a muscatel note, but it's not as obvious. It's quite possible I'm just not doing justice to this one, but I don't think it's on the same level as the other muscatel delights. Still, just as the runners-up in the olympics are excellent athletes, this would beat the pants off most other Darjeelings.
I enjoyed these teas very much, and because of my preference for strong muscatel flavor, I liked them more than the previous three. The Lochan Muscatel still stands out as the most solid of these, but the 2006 Margaret's Hope comes in a close second, with bonus points for uniqueness. Stay tuned for more Darjeeling action, right here on Tea Nerd!