Samurai means “to serve.”
Tamurai means “to serve through tea.”
AT TAMURAI TEA OUR GOAL IS TO HONOR THE SPIRIT OF HEALTH AND WELL-BEING.
We begin our Himalaya travels in Darjeeling for the First Flush of teas with Joshua and crew to end this leg of the journey in Nepal. The voyage never truly finishes, as Joshua will return to the Himalayas for the 2nd flush harvest.
In March of 2019, our buyers embarked on the journey into the Golden Valley of famed Darjeeling teas with our partners at Chamong Tea Group. Our founder Joshua comments on one of his first days at the Tumsong Estate, “Darjeeling is so magical.” We couldn’t agree more about how special this region is to the world of tea.
Darjeeling tea is a Geographically Indicated product. The World Intellectual Property Organization defines a GI by: “a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to origin… Since the quality depends on the geographical place of production, there is a clear link between product and this original place of production.”
The Tumsong Estate in Golden Valley has quite a few genetic varieties growing, but not necessarily as vast compared to other regions. The concept to note are the numerous microclimate ranges—a great illustration of terroir. Different slope pitches and varying levels of sun exposure in each garden’s divisions allow for every plantation to differ from one another, even though they are in close proximity. The tea trees grow on slopes amongst other crops, such as black cardamom, creating a lovely biodiversity. The terrain is certainly something to experience—the hills are beautiful, and one can sense the intense rays of the sun even through photographs. These teas from Darjeeling allow everyone to experience a true lesson in terroir, even if we cannot visit the estate ourselves.
During the visit to the Golden Valley, the team studied and tasted teas with Mr. Ajay Kichlu, who has 40+ years experience as a taster in the Darjeeling region. They received lessons in tasting Marybong Estate tea from high-elevation China bush cultivars and other hybrids from the Kyel Division to more deeply understand exactly what aromas and tastes one can find in teas of this region. The nuances of terroir in these teas is tremendous and takes many years of development into a high-level taster to gain the ability to sense intricacies, much like one would expect from a master sommelier.
At the Tumsong Estate, the factory manager, Naresh Pareek, is a gifted tea maker. Joshua was a part of each step of the process in making these elevated, aromatic teas and shared with the Rishi team many of the nuances and lessons he learned. The only aspect our buyers cannot share with us are the intoxicating aromatics during processing. The dynamic aromas develop from pleasant grassy to minty, then to florals of lily cassia, exotic fruits, and even touches of wintergreen. During processing, the tea master uses his senses to judge when the oxidation is ripe and ready for drying. He smells and smells—the nose knows.
The eagerly anticipated First Flush harvest in March-April produces teas with a brilliant golden infusion that captures the essence of spring. The teas follow a very similar processing style beginning with harvest, followed by a carefully-monitored indoor wither, gentle rolling, light oxidation, which we see the tea makers judging intimately, and ending with oven baking to finalize the drying process.
A note from Joshua in the Tumsong processing rooms: “In the early morning during processing, the fresh leaves are withered and appear wrinkled and supple for rolling. If fresh leaves were used before withering, they would break and tear. The withered leaves are softer, a bit sticky, and more pliable. The raw, grassy water aroma has dissipated from the leaf and the withering room smells of orchids and apples.”
Each lot is very unique, and we have 3 lots of the same cultivar from different gardens, and two other hybrids from separate gardens. Our Tumsong and Lingia teas are from the Golden Valley, while the Chamong teas are from gardens to the south in the Rongbong Valley next to Selimbong. Our Shree Dwarika selection is from a garden just north of Golden Valley, on the Nepal border.
The Darjeeling First Flush Chamong EX2 is an AV2 clonal, grown at 1450 meters, and tastes like a ripe, Georgia peach. Also an AV2 clonal, the Darjeeling First Flush Dwarika gives flavors of orange blossom, Buddha’s hand, and magnolia and is found at a much lower elevation of 900 meters. The last tea of this cultivar, Darjeeling First Flush Tumsong EX1, is the highest grown of our Darjeeling teas at 1500 meters and is fruity and floral with notes of lily of the valley, lychee, and hyacinth.
The final two teas are both China cultivars and grown at very similar elevations. Both are quite floral and sweet, but one can note the difference in zest between the two. The Darjeeling First Flush Tumsong EX2 is found at 1200 meters and has hints of delicate floral notes, lilac, orchid, and Muscat grape. The other China variety is the Darjeeling First Flush Lingia EX1A, gives us rose, lemon zest, and stargazer lily, and is grown 50 meters higher.
We hope you enjoy the extraordinary flavors and nuances found in the renowned teas from this prized region in Darjeeling, India.
FROM THE WEBMD ARCHIVES
Read the tea leaves, caffeine lovers. Tea is gaining ground over coffee. Even Starbucks is bucking up its tea menu. The health benefits of tea are one compelling reason: Green and black teas have 10 times the amount of antioxidants found in fruits and veggies, by one estimate.
Studies of humans and animals show that the antioxidants in black and green teas are highly beneficial to our health, says 82-year-old John Weisburger, PhD, senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y.
“I’ve published more than 500 papers, including a hell of a lot on tea,” says Weisburger, who drinks 10 cups daily. “I was the first American researcher to show that tea modifies the metabolism to detoxify harmful chemicals.”
Green tea, black tea, oolong tea — they all come from the same tea plant, Camellia sinensis. The leaves are simply processed differently, explains Weisburger. Green tea leaves are not fermented; they are withered and steamed. Black tea and oolong tea leaves undergo a crushing and fermenting process.
All teas from the camellia tea plant are rich in polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant. These wonder nutrients scavenge for cell-damaging free radicals in the body and detoxify them, says Weisburger. “Astounding” aptly describes tea’s antioxidant power, he tells WebMD. “Whether it’s green or black, tea has about eight to 10 times the polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables.”
Black and green both have different types of antioxidants than fruits and vegetables. Thearubigins, epicatechins, and catechins are among those listed in a USDA chart. All are considered flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Brewed green and black teas have loads of those, the chart shows. (Herbal teas may also contain antioxidants but less is known about them, Weisburger says.)
“In my lab, we found that green and black tea had identical amounts of polyphenols,” he tells WebMD. “We found that both types of tea blocked DNA damage associated with tobacco and other toxic chemicals. In animal studies, tea-drinking rats have less cancer.”
Look at the world’s big tea drinkers, like Japan and China. “They have much less heart disease and don’t have certain cancers that we in the Western world suffer,” says Weisburger.
Green Tea, Black Tea: Packed With Antioxidants
“The scientific evidence about tea is evolving and I think it’s compelling,” Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, tells WebMD.
Tea is a great example of the past decade’s research of antioxidants, he says. “There is a pretty consistent body of evidence suggesting there is a benefit to tea. Tea is a very rich source of a specific kind of antioxidant called flavonoids.”
The bulk of research shows that regular tea drinkers, people who drink two cups or more a day, have less heart disease and stroke, lower total and LDL (often called “bad”) cholesterol, and that they recover from heart attacks faster.
Some laboratory tests also show that black and green tea may help boost metabolism to aid weight loss, block allergic response, slow the growth of tumors, protect bones, fight bad breath, improve skin, protect against Parkinson’s disease, and even delay the onset of diabetes.
In a study involving bladder cancer cells, green tea extract seemed to make the cancer cells behave oddly. They matured sooner, bound together tightly, and had a hard time multiplying. Another study found that men who drank oolong tea plus green tea extract lost more weight and total body fat, compared with men who drank plain oolong tea. Also, the green tea drinkers had lower LDL cholesterol.
Other small studies have found that the antioxidants from drinking tea can help prevent skin cancer. There’s also evidence that tea extracts applied to the skin (in a lotion) can block sun damage that leads to skin cancer.
All this research seems to suggest that if you want to do something good for yourself, drink tea. “It has no calories and lots of polyphenols. If you’re drinking tea, you’re not drinking soda — that’s a real benefit. Water doesn’t give you those polyphenols,” says Blumberg.
Weisburger recommends drinking six to 10 cups of black or green tea throughout the day, starting with breakfast. Switch to decaf tea midday, if you need to. “Flavonoids are unchanged by removal of caffeine,” he says.