Harvested from late May to June, the second flush teas of Assam growing around the Brahmaputra valley and Darjeeling from the foothills of the Himalayas are known as summer flush teas.
A look at the factors that impact each of these teas.
Assam in summer has temperatures of 20-30 C. Hot humid days resulting in more tea than the first flush but less than the monsoon season.
Darjeeling’s summer temperatures range between 15-22 C. Bright warm days, resulting in more tea than the first flush but less than the monsoon season.
Region & Altitude
Assam is at a low elevation, 30-150m or 100–500 ft
Darjeeling is hilly at 600m to 2000m or 2000-6700ft
Tea that’s growing at higher altitudes mature slowly and have a lower yield, which leads to higher quality.
Length of tea leaf
The top two leaves and a bud is the industry standard for good quality tea to be produced anywhere in India. They are the best quality, as they contain the maximum concentration of the sap which translates to high aroma and flavor.
In Darjeeling, the leaves grow slowly because of high elevation and the cold climate. The chinary variety used here is much smaller than the Assamica cultivar.
In Assam, tea grows faster because of the hot and humid temperature and the leaf size of an Assamica cultivar is more than the chinary or clonal tea.
How do you choose between the two?
Here’s a quick guide to the best summer teas available and what sort of tea may best suit your taste buds:
Assam Tea: The summer flush or second flush offers robust, rich flavours of malt, honey and wood. The liquors are darker than Darjeeling teas, with colours ranging from golden yellow colour (kesaria in local parlance) to dark reddish. The second flush teas are ‘tippy teas’, named after the gold tips that appear on the leaves. This tippy tea is full-bodied and sweeter than spring flush.
These teas are brisk, rich with a robust, malty flavor. Best enjoyed with or without milk and sugar. Can be enjoyed in the morning or afternoons. Assam teas are the base for most breakfast tea blends.
Brewing tip: Summer flush Assam tea is best brewed for 4-5 minutes.
Darjeeling Tea: The summer flush Darjeeling tea is known world over for its muscatel specialty – a dense grape fruity-floral flavor found in limited edition teas from these gardens. Darjeeling second flush teas have complex flavours unlike the light and delicate first flush teas.
These teas are mildly astringent, sweet, bright in taste and color. They can be enjoyed all day.
Brewing tip: Summer flush Darjeeling tea is best brewed for 3-5 minutes. Best enjoyed without milk or sugar.
The choice to make is, would you prefer the fragrant and floral Darjeeling, or the robust, malty Assam? Do you prefer your tea black or with a dash of milk? Whether you like your breakfast tea to be a bit sweet and strong Assam, or enjoy the more delicate hues of the Darjeeling for afternoon tea, the taste and aroma of the summer flush will be savoured.
Here’s a table to help summarize the major differences between the two:
If this wasn’t reason enough,
- A hot drink will cool you down faster in the summer months than a cool drink.
- A sweet tea will give you the sugars that you need to rehydrate your body.
- Freshly brewed tea contain flavonoids that are health-enhancing antioxidants that need to be replenished after dehydration.