In China, the most exciting new green teas of the season are invariably Pre-Ming or Pre-Rain, with Dragonwell leading the way to being the most sought after in that category. In Japan, it’s called Shincha,or ‘New Tea’. Elsewhere in the world, First Flush Darjeeling is the biggest deal for tea aficionados! We love this early, almost green, version of Darjeeling for its very unique spicy fragrance, and honeywater taste and texture. Here, we interviewed Mr. Ashok Kumar, owner of Goomtee Estate in Darjeeling, to hear from him directly what he thinks about this year’s crop, and other issues:
1. Where is Goomtee situated relative to other Darjeeling farms, and position advantages, if any? Any particular terroir differences?
Darjeeling farms are generally located between 1500′-6500′ above msl. Goomtee ranges from 2500′-6500′, avoiding low grown teas. Further, we are located in between Jungpana to the south and Castleton in the north which are among the best marks in Darjeeling.
We mostly have the varieties planted originally by the British, having avoided replanting with many recent clones which emphasise crop over quality.
2. Goomtee has excellent plantation management, can you tell us a bit about what special management practices you have?
In one word Goomtee is known for consistency. Our teas are consistently of the highest quality level in terms of appearance, smoothness, fragrance, taste and aftertaste year after year. This is achieved by close attention to harvest and traditional processing, besides meticulous recording of various parameters.
3. The First Flush is the most exciting crop of the year. Can you tell us what you expect for this year in terms of weather or other factors that might affect the crop?
Yes, Goomtee is known for first flush leadership as large areas are north facing protecting the bushes from drought effect. However, we are experiencing ideal conditions this year for a vintage year and plan to please our connoisseurs with mellow yet fragrant light bright teas.
4. In the past few years, there have been some challenging political situations facing Darjeeling estates. How has that impacted your estate?
Goomtee has largely been sheltered from political interference as three generations of the same family have been in charge for 60 years maintaining an unblemished record of harmonious relationship with the home community, besides payment of all dues in time. We are proud to be among the pioneers for equal wages to women.
5. Please let us know what plans you have for Darjeeling- new products, varietals, experiments, etc.
Goomtee is known for constant improvement in line with customer expectations. We are making a sustained effort to harvest more of the inferential fragrance and taste which will be appreciated by our customers. Simultaneously we are developing special handcrafted teas.