Tea estate “Jungpana” in Darjeeling, northeast India – click picture to enlarge
Jungpana Tea Estate
Jungpana is a classic Indian tea estate, located about 10-12 km south of Kurseong town in the pictoresque highland of Darjeeling. The tea garden’s extremely rugged terrain covers altitudes between 1000 and 2000 meters above sea level. Jungpana is known as Darjeeling’s hardest to access tea estate. Even today, the only access way to the estate is quite an adventurous suspension bridge, made of wood and ropes. Beyond that, there’s more then 600 stairs to conquer. The estate has a reputation for its teas’ constant high quality across years and seasons. Thus, Jungpana’s first spring picking is one of Darjeeling’s most anticipated first flushes every year. In fact, for Darjeeling tea lovers, it is one of the most anticipated events in the world of tea at all.
The Jungpana Legend
According to legend, a British hunter once roamed this part of the Himalayan foothills with his gurkha, Jung Bahadur. When the two suddenly faced a leopard attack. the faithful gurkha stood up for his master. When the latter finally had disposed of the beast, Jung Bahadur had already suffered some severe injuries. Felling thirsty, he asked his master for water, “pana”. His master then carried him to a nearby stream and let him drink. Little later, Jung Bahadur succumbed to his injuries and died in his master’s arms. Since then, the area goes by the name of “Jungpana”, the place, where Jung Bahadur had his last sip of water. So far the legend…
The Jungpana History
History documents that Jungpana tea garden first came into being through the plantings of British Sir Henry Montgomery Lennox. Since that time, the estate has changed ownership several times until 1956, when the Kejriwal family took over. Still in charge of the tea garden today, it was the who made Jungpana accessible for motor vehicles for the first time. To do this, they constructed a 4 km long road through neighboring Goomtee Tea Estate, ending at the said suspension bridge. However, large parts of that road – and the bridge itself – had to be completely rebuilt after exposure to a massive landslide in 1993.
Health and environment-friendly Cultivation and Modern Processing Facilities
It was also the Kejriwals, who introduced health and environment-friendly farming techniques soon after taking over the tea garden. In addition, Jungpana’s processing facilities underwent comprehensive modernization during the past decades. What’s more, the estate’s tea portfolio has developed with the trends of time. Today, Jungpana enjoys worldwide fame for its sprightly, spring-fresh first flushes, full-bodied second flushes and malty-mild “autumnals” (autumn pickings).
However, outside the processing facilities, Jungpana displays a rather traditional fashion. So, picking is done manually, as always has been, which in this tea garden’s difficult terrain is not exactly an easy task. Also, the transport of freshly picked tea leaves and ready processed tea represents quite a challenge here.
Tea from India @ Siam Tea Shop
The sustainable trend to more quality with tea on the western market increasingly bears sweet fruit in India, too. Year after year, the mayor tea estates in Darjeeling and Assam compete for the market’s recognition for each season’s best “First Flush“, “Second Flush” or “Autumnal”. However, not only quality comes from India at new levels today, but also completely new diversity of India’s tea portfolio. Black tea, for example, the classic of Indian teas, suddenly comes around in the most diverse appearances. The spectrum reaches from the modern, flowery, spring-hearted first flush to full-bodied, dark roasted second flushes to earthy and malty “autumnals”. One example for a modern, nearly “green” first flush, as it is typical for my estates today, is our Jungpana First Flush 2018 Spring Delight.
Jungpana First Flush 2017 – SFTGFOP 1 CL SPL
The Indian First Flush Season
Even though we might know the term “First Flush” only from India, this doesn’t mean there weren’t any “first flushes” – first spring pickings – anywhere else. Much rather, the first pickings after the winter break enjoys specialty status, wherever tea is grown. Themain reason for this is the particular, taste-relevant pattern of active substances in the tea leaf after the “winter break”. In fact, picking is put on hold during the cold season for several months in all major tea cultivation countries. But it is not only the picking break that brings the tea plants relief. What adds, is that the cool climate – especially in combination with hig humidity and/or fog – soothes the plants and promotes the accumulation of active substances. In spring then, with rising temperatures and days getting longer, the plant drives these active substances into the young leaves and buds. And this is something… you can taste!
“Early” and “late” First Flushes
Besides, what we call “First Flush Season” is by no means a consistent picking period, when it comes to quality and taste of the individual batches. “Ex. 1” , i. e. the very first picking run in the year at all, yields no more than a few kg’s only. Then, this tiny yield comes with such labor expense and the resulting tea is met by such high demand that the price for it hits utopian dimensions. This applies in particular to tea gardens at lower altitudes that because of their location will start their spring picking very early, i. e. already in February. Accordingly, their teas make the spearhead of the Indian first flush season.
On the flipside of the price-quality spiral, later in March pickings of such estates are what will – starting from April – be widely available at Western tea shops at significantly lower prices. By then, however, they’ll have the very best of the spring season already have behind them. And this is, when some other Darjeeling tea estates – based on their highland location – will only start their first and most premium pickings. To them applies the same cycle as described for lowland estates above, just shifted in time by a few weeks. Plus, of course, they won’t be the first ones one the market anymore. Friends of Darjeeling teas do know this. So, for them, the anticipation of the year’s first Makaibari only begins right after the waves of enthusiasm about the early Jungpana first flush might have started to subside…
Jungpana First Flush 2018 Spring Delight EXN 24
The modern type of first flush processing focuses on emphasizing these teas’ specific spring character. Accordingly, the taste of the Jungpana First Flush 2017 pleases with dominant flowery and fruity notes. In addition, the golden yellow cup of our personal favorite among this year’s spring pickings convinces with a pronounced full body and perfect balancing of individual flavor components.
Our Jungpana First Flush 2018 Spring Delight comes from the estate’s “Invoice EXN 24“. This means, it hasn’t been picked on the very first day of picking this year, but a few days later, in the last days of February 2018. After buying tea from such early batch of the estate last year already, what then should turn out the best first flush all over the season, I did not even hesitate a second this year, when receiving notification from Darjeeling about Jungpana’s early Spring Delight becoming available and meeting all the great expectations put into it. And a relatively affordable price – compared to the estate’s “EXN 1” – did the rest to for me mark the starting shot of India’s first flush season 2018.
2018 is much likely to become a year of superlatives for Darjeeling teas in all respects. The preceding winter’s climate has been as favorable as not in decades, with temperatures dropping to around 0°C and rain in January. The latter has temporarily even covered the tea gardens in the form of snow, thus creating perfect conditions for the accumulation of active substances in the tea leaf. And the near-complete missing of summer and autumn pickings in 2017, owed to last year’s social unrest in Darjeeling, might have been good for not many things, but certainly for this year’s tea!
First, poor 200-250 ml boiling hot water (90°C-100°C) over 4g Jungpana First Flush 2018 Spring Delight EXN 24 in a teapot. Let infuse for 3-5 minutes for a full flavor, spring-sprightly infusion. A second infusion is always an option and lives up to more than just keeping this tea’s delicious aftertaste alive!