Edited and reprinted with permission from the Tea in the Ancient World blog
Gopaldhara Muscatel Gold (CH FTGFOP1, second flush)
This tea (described here) is a good version of what one might expect of a Darjeeling; a true black tea, and a second flush type at that, so heavier on muscatel and other fruit elements. Even still dry the tea seems just how it should be, with the dry tea scent including plenty of muscatel, along with malty sweetness and citrus tones.
The tea plant type (cultivar) is presented as from a Chinese tea plant, which relates to Camelia Sinensis var. Sinensis, versus var. Assamica. Ceylon and Assam teas are typically all from Assamica plants, but that Darjeelings are not, with problems growing Assamica types in that region addressed by changing to the Chinese plant types (var. Sinensis). This Hojo vendor post essentially covers that, just not in much detail, also including the idea that the var. Sinensis plants have intermixed with Assamica type plants (to some degree), so per that source and some other reliable input they would now be a hybrid.
The taste matches the scent: lots of grape / muscatel, a bit of citrus in the range of orange zest, with a rich, earthy malt base for context. The flavors are clean, with no edge of astringency, just a little to give it a fuller feel (even more interesting related to plant-type concerns).
From there a number of more subtle elements give the tea the effect of complexity, all in a pleasant presentation. That earthiness is really at the edge of the mineral range, reminding me of red sandstone from slick rock hiking back in the Utah desert. As one taste aspect can seem connected to a body or feel aspect a bit of dryness goes along with that, more in the second infusion than the first.
A slight touch of cinnamon spice also joins in, but it’s quite subtle, nothing like the effect when that’s a main taste element in a more roasted oolong. It’s a good match with the muscatel, citrus, and malt.
The tea doesn’t have astringency one would need to brew around but it seems experimenting with brewing temperature could shift that effect, the feel of the tea, along with minor shift in flavor elements. Brewed a little cooler the effect is of a softer, fruitier tea, with earthy aspects and a dry and fuller body coming out at relatively hotter temperatures. Typically one would brew Darjeelings at a bit below black tea range to push the flavor effect and lighten the body, per my understanding. Experimentation would determine how that corresponds to personal preference, and it might make more sense related to teas that are less oxidized, depending on that factor.
John Bickel is a tea blog writer based in Bangkok, Thailand, originally from the United States. He works in the Information Technology field, as Senior Quality Assurance Manager in a leading data center company. Tea interests relate to social media participation (admin for the International Tea Talk Facebook group), tea related travel in Asia, trying teas from different regions, and review of tea processing and cultivar background.