One of our favourite Darjeeling tea gardens is the beautifully located Thurbo. The name “Thurbo” comes from a variation of the Nepalese word for tent: the British were camped out in this area while fighting Nepalese forces in 1870. Today the garden is a peaceful idyll that produces some the best teas to come out of Darjeeling.
For those of you new to the various add-ons to names in Darjeeling teas, when a Darjeeling tea has “moon” in its name you know it’s going to be something special. With a different flavour profile to the first flush teas from later in the season, these rare “moon”-style teas tend to have a floral character with a sweet top note. The main difference between these types of teas and other first flush teas from Darjeeling is the type of leaf used and the production technique – these are teas that are made by true masters.
Whether Moonlight is technically a black, oolong or even a white tea is open to debate. With the name inspired by the abundance of silvery tips in the loosely rolled dry leaf, the infusion reveals a beautiful translucent pale-yellow liquor that is indeed reminiscent of a white tea, but whereas this tea undergoes withering and rolling, white tea is usually simply plucked and dried. Also, as the tea is not fully oxidised, one could argue that it should be categorised as an oolong, but as no “kill green” but rather a “hard withering” takes place, it is not really an oolong either.
Thurbo Moonlight DJ 10 2022 is an exceptional quality clonal tea made from AV2, P312 and SY3210 cultivars. This means that the plants were generated from cuttings from plants chosen for their particular flavour profile and characteristics, generally a cutting of a single leaf. One of around thirty Darjeeling clonal plants, AV2, is all the rage at the moment in Darjeeling. AV2 stands for Ambari Vegetative, following the logic of naming the clones from the garden that that created them. The P312 clone from the garden Phoobsering and the SY3210 cultivars are known for their full flavour, aromatic scent and floral notes. What we really love about what is going on in Darjeeling right now is how the individual estates are being innovative in developing clonal plants that are not just suitable for making great black teas but also white teas and oolongs.
Rich in flavour with a lovely translucent cup, the dry leaf of this tea has an overall white-greenish appearance with fine silver fibres on almost all of the leaves. Skilfully rolled and twisted the appearance is wiry and elongated with cylindrical twirls. Once the tea is brewed it reveals a bright golden-yellow brew with a rich mellow liquor. Smooth on the first sip, as you roll it around your mouth various levels of complex fruity and floral notes come to the fore. As the tea cools it tastes sweeter with light nutty notes.
Made in very small batches, we were lucky enough to get some of this tea flown in directly from Darjeeling. If you are new to “Moonlight” we suggest you try this tea with an open mind and prepare to be surprised.