Wednesday, July 11, 2012

First-flush Darjeelings from Rare Tea Republic

The latest tea company to enthrall me: the Rare Tea Republic, "a company that curates fresh teas from the world's finest tea gardens" that was launched last fall. Don't worry about confusing the name with the Republic of Tea; they're the same company. The Rare Tea Republic was spun off from the already high-end, high-priced brand to focus on small-lot and single-estate teas.

The business is based in California's Bay Area, but its production and distribution facilities are in downstate Illinois, due east of St. Louis. The teas, however, are sourced from across northern India and near the Himalayan mountains. RTR launched with 19 teas from the region, two of which are already award-winners.

I'm still a second-flush kinda guy, but the samples of first-flush Darjeelings I've had in the past year are bringing me around, including a couple of doozies from RTR. Their Jun Chiyabari FTGFOP1 — the packet I have notes its origin (Nepal) and, wonderfully, its plucking date (April 9) — is fantastic, with a rich and peaty odor, which in the cup blossoms into a flowery scent (peonies?) and a corresponding flavor, like sweet chamomile and lime. The widely praised Phoobsering FTGFOP1 (Darjeeling, April 11) was an absolute marvel. Dry, it reeks of camphor and champagne, a bracing aroma that had me huffing the bag far longer than is proper. Cupped, it's a much more nuanced, sly, complex beast, still confident in the nose but remarkably light on the tongue, very much like a buttery chardonnay. (Most previous reviews cite lemons and lilies here; the latter maybe, the former I didn't get at all.) A third sample, the Wah FTGFOP (Kangra, April 12), laid there like an old dog  compared to the other two, perhaps faithful but devoid of any real spark of life. Each of these teas stood tall after long brews and several subsequent steepings.

Intriguing finds. Next, I'll dive into their five white offerings.

1 comment:

  1. I have not yet tried Rare Tea Republic's first flush teas, but I have been very impressed with their other teas. I also found the company to have a very consistent aesthetic, quite tightly controlled and predictable, in that it seems to fall in a certain range, with all the teas I sampled exhibiting noticeably vegetal characteristics, but not being overwhelmingly so...and all of the teas I sampled were also full-bodied, yet smooth in flavor.

    Whoever is selecting these teas seems to have a knack for doing so, because it can be a challenge to get this sort of consistency with Himalayan black teas. I am curious to try more of this company's teas over time, but for now, I'm impressed.

    Incidentally, I don't think of Republic of Tea as being particularly high-priced. Their tea bag tins sell for around $10, but they contain 50 tea bags, putting them roughly in the same price range as a lot of the mainstream tea brands in stores. High-priced, in my eyes, would be the whole-leaf sachets sold by a number of brands that sell for $8-10 for 15-20 sachets.