Margaret’s Hope Estate is one of the most renowned tea estates in India and the producer of some of my favorite Darjeelings of all time. Prior to trying this tea, I had yet to try a first flush from Margaret’s Hope, instead focusing all of my attention on their lovely second flush teas. When the opportunity to purchase 4 ounces of tea leaves from one of my favorite estates at a very reasonable price fell into my lap, I jumped at the chance.
I’m still working my way through the big bag of this tea, so I have yet to exhaust all of my usual preparation methods. For the past day or two, I have been sticking to a one step Western infusion, though I would just about guarantee that this is the sort of Darjeeling out of which one could get at least 1 or 2 more infusions. I will definitely give that a try in the very near future. For the purposes of this review, however, I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 205 F water for 3 minutes, as Tealyra recommends starting with 2-3 minutes for this one.
Prior to infusion, the dry leaves gave off a lovely, inviting aroma that resembled a blend of musk and Muscat grape. After infusion, the liquor showed a dark gold in the cup. Honestly, the color was darker than I expected, but whatever. On the nose, I easily picked up aromas of herbs, straw, wood, musk, honey, toast, cream, malt, and Muscat grape. In the mouth, I immediately detected an intriguing blend of citrus and herb notes. It was almost like a mixture of lemon and bee balm. These flavors were soon joined by pronounced notes of straw, wood, malt, cream, almond, toast, musk, Muscat grape, and honey. The finish was surprisingly smooth, offering lingering notes of Muscat grape, toast, cream, honey, and musk backed by a slight citrus zestiness.
At first, I did not really know what to make of this tea. The flavors were so strong that I was taken aback. It was not what I was expecting at all, and at the time, I was not all that certain I enjoyed it. After giving this tea a few more chances, however, I can say that it has really grown on me. It is just a little rough around the edges, but it displays nice complexity and depth in the mouth. Even though I have not tried all that many first flush Darjeelings this year, this may be my favorite to this point. If you are looking for a truly nice first flush Darjeeling and do not mind a few minor quirks, then by all means give this tea a try.
Flavors: Almond, Cream, Herbs, Honey, Lemon, Malt, Muscatel, Straw, Toast, Wood