Edited and reprinted with permission from the Tea in the Ancient World blog
CULTIVAR: AV2 Most Preferred Clones
ELEVATION: 5000-7000 FT
RANGE OF TEMPERATURE: 12 – 18 Degrees
TEA TYPE: Oolong Whole Leaf
FLUSH SEASON: Second Flush
TYPE OF PLUCKING: 100% fine leaf, mostly comprising of two leaves and a bud
This really seems like a black tea, but then a standard oxidation level definition may well put it in the Oolong range instead, as listed. In this tea the muscatel is even stronger than in the first tea I had reviewed (China Muscatel Gold). It starts to develop towards a brandy liquor effect, which is very nice, a positive extension into an unusual level of depth. It gives up some of the bright fruit effect for doing so but the trade is not a bad thing given the rich, balanced, more unique flavor range it moves into. That other tea was great for nailing the expected type, this one excels for deviating from it.
Spice rounds out the flavors balance. Again there’s a bit of orange rind citrus, with an earthy and mineral base that’s more difficult to separate as a list. Astringency is not so much an issue, and the flavors are very clean. This tea could change character with brewing process changes, at a guess, taking on more body and astringency brewed at higher temperature or prepared as a stronger infusion, and lightening up brewed cooler or less strong, still showing the fruit range. I take this to be a standard effect for Darjeelings, potential for adjusting results with brewing changes, but it does vary by type. Some people recommend one brewing temperature for all Darjeeling types, but again that may or may not be the best approach, depending on individual preference.
This version includes a lot of tips, changing the style of tea from that of mostly leaf based teas. It’s interesting how many differences there are between different regional versions of related style teas, for example how far apart this tea is in character from an Indonesian tip – prevalent black tea, or how different the aspects are from a Jin Jun Mei (which should be a pure var. Sinensis, so I’m mixing different factors now). The more general point is that black teas cover lots of range, interesting in how they vary. Then again these two second flush Darjeeling teas were likely grown quite close to each other, at the same time, and they vary quite a bit too, so you don’t need to go to the next growing region to be impressed by that.
One criticism related to some Darjeeling relates to some coming across as thin, but that doesn’t apply to these Gopaldhara Teas. The rich fullness of a lighter oolong wouldn’t be matched, except the Gopaldhara Wonder Gold version went really far with full body, but the black teas–or these teas closer to true black teas–aren’t at all thin, not light in feel, and not limited in terms of aftertaste.
Research section, on Darjeeling cultivars:
The Darjeeling Oolongs grow at a higher elevation, with a more stable temperature range, and a mix of old China bushes and the clonal ones. The AV2 and complementary varieties are noted for their complexity and aromatic floral notes. Over the past decade, new AV2 teas have won most awards in competitions. One of the recurrent themes in reviews is the surprise factor – AV2 teas are decidedly different, not just better, than comparative ones of very high quality: common adjectives are memorable, mind-blowing, unexpected, bolder and even “budful.”
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.