2023 First Flush Ringtong SFTGFOP 1 CH RFA
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In West Bengal in northeast India, the asphalt pathed Hill Cart Road, officially known as National Highway 110, meanders along the contours of the eastern spurs of the great Himalayas amidst natural reserves and tea gardens. Stretching north from the plains of Siligiri at the foothills right up to Darjeeling town at 2,000m, it passes by three towns, namely Kurseong at 1,500m (where Giddapahar, Goomtee, Jungpana, Margarat's Hope tea estates are located), then Sonada at 1,850m (where Ringtong Tea Estate is located), then Darjeeling at 2,045m which sits atop the hill settlements against the backdrop of the majestic Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. Parallel to this road on its west is the Mirik Road, which passes through the town of Mirik at 1,500m (where Okayti Tea Estate is located). After the small transit town of Mane Bhanjang, Mirik Road joins with Rishi Road pointing eastwards and crosses with north-south Hill Cart Road at the small neighbourhood of Ghoom just off the main town of Darjeeling. Historical tea gardens - 90 of them as counted in 2022 - scatter unevenly along these two roads since 170 years ago, circa 1852 when the first tea gardens were officially established. Earlier dates were cited for other tea gardens when they were smaller scale, e.g. Bara Ringtong in 1830s, and now has taken the world famous name of Margarat’s Hope located at Kurseong.
Little is known about the earlier years of Ringtong Tea Estate which was established in 1865. The coincidence in the names of Ringtong at Sonada and the former name of Margarat’s Hope - Bara Ringtong - at Kurseong is also unknown. Today, Ringtong Tea Estate is certified Rainforest Alliance and has a strong following among the tea lovers and royal families of the world. The garden has the China variety of tea which were seeded from the earlier Chinese varieties smuggled out from China in 1849 and 1850 by Scottish Robert Fortune who managed to collect tea saplings from Zhejiang, Anhui and Fujian provinces by disguising his outlandish look and huge Scottish build in Qing dynasty attire complete with a pigtail.
First flush teas of the highest grade usually come with a string of designations. SFTGFOP 1 means Super Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekeo Grade 1. It is harvested 1 bud 2 leaves. Being an ancient estate, the tea shrubs are of China variety, denoted by CH. This tea is also Rainforest Alliance certified.
We are brewing this Indian tea in our Parchmen Glass Gaiwan, at 3g to 120ml of 85°C water for 45 sec. Brew colour is golden yellow. The brewed leaves smell of stewed fruits, with floral notes piercing through when the leaves cools, accompanied by a hint of nutmeg and pepper. The brew is chewy and juicy, full of white and yellow florals - think jasmine, marigold - on a soft buttery background, with black grapes occasionally revealing themselves. Mouthfeel is thick and smooth. As it cools, it becomes more sparkling, creamy and grapey. This tea can be brewed twice, with a perceived thinning of the brew the longer it is brewed.
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