I have this week the visit of the Indian exporter I have been working with for decades. I know, he likes red wine but, this year, I decide to take him to the small terroir « Sauternes », located south of Bordeaux and famous for it sweet white wine. Why ? Because the parallel between this sweet wine and some teas seems me of interest.
The first parallel between the Sauternes lies in the natural intervention of a third uncontrolable element .
The very sweet taste of the Sauternes wine is due to its high level in sugar obtained by the action of a mushroom « the botrytis cinerea » which appears in that terroir when, over in August and September, the meteorological conditions between the fog in the morning and the sun during the day are maximum. The Botrytis mushroom developps by taking out this new incomming water contained in the wine grappes. With the chemical change of the grappes, the sugar level increases. It is therefore all the nuances of sweet, honey, caramel, candied fruits, citrus fruits …. which can be found in this sweet wine.
But it is not only in wine that a natural phenomenon influences the taste of a product. This happen also in Indian, in the small terroir of Darjeeling which produces between mi of mai till end of june a very spécial tea.
Here it is not only the climatic conditions, or the work of the planter or the soil of the terroir that are responsable for the exceptional expression of the tea at this period. Like in Sauternes, the very peculiar taste is due to the intervention of an insect, the Jacobiasca formosana paoli, which by bitting the tealeave bring a modification of its chemical composition. It is he who contributes to the tea its mellow notes of honey, muscatel, plum or peach called « muscatel notes ». This muscatel Darjeeling will fully express thèse note of ripe fruit for a period of 6 weeks. This period is colloquially and uncorrectly know as 2. Flush tea.
The second approximation is the color of these two beverages. Both offer a warm yellow golden color more or less intense.
The third parallel between the Sauternes wines and the Darjeeling 2.flush tea is obviously their very close aromatic notes.
The fourth comparaison concerns the fact that both are small terroirs : 87 tea gardens for Darjeeling and 160 Sauternes wine producers . Consequently, the production is reduced. The annual quantity produced in Darjeeling accounts for around 1% of total production in India.
And finally, both are high-end products, whose little expensive prices confirm the exceptional quality of their taste.
But in the case of the tea, never forget that you may put an average of 2 g of tea per cup which remain a quite acceptable and reasonable price for a very exceptional sensitive experience.