Every year around this time, tea lovers frantically contact their tea brokers, favorite online tea retailers, or local tea friends to see how they can get their hands on the freshest tea of the year: the first flush.
In tea-growing regions around the world, the first flush can mean something completely different from one locale to another. For instance, in India and China, first flush means watching the rains during the months and weeks prior to make accurate predictions of when the harvest will come. In Japan, it can be a cutthroat environment where some growers judge others for tenting their tea rows with vinyl or plastic, in an attempt to incubate the trees so they will flush first.
In Hawaii the first flush is not a time for tea trees to exit dormancy because the temperate climate makes for less variability season to season. Instead, tea growers in Hawaii purposefully allow their trees to rest by not harvesting during the wetter Winter months, allowing for a more flavorful first flush to appear in very early Spring.
As someone that is relatively new to the tea business, I have learned that no matter where you are, the first flush is one of the most important times of the year. This is not a new phenomenon. It was documented that tea traders moving the first flush from China to Great Britain had clipper ships races to prove which trader was the first to bring the new tea to the market. The Great Tea Race of 1866 was documented to be one of the most competitive of these races.
Tea traders have not abandoned this desire to be the first to market bearing the new flush of tea. In 2014, you can already see retailers showcasing their selection of first flush Darjeelings from their favorite estates. Social media feeds of retailers are filled with promotions for preorders of impending teas coming from India and China.
So, what has the first flush become for me? As excited as I would be to be among the first to bring a new tea to the market, my main objective is to tell the story of the Spring Harvest. For this reason, I am currently racing around the tea world with my brother to document this story. So far we have met with three different growers in three regions with 11 regions still to visit. The growers have been appreciative of our interest in their story, because up to this point, their experience with sharing their first flush ended as soon as they sold the tea to buyers.
You are invited to follow our story. If you have questions you would like us to ask growers about their Spring Harvest, or their tea in general, you can submit them on this page. We will be telling the story through video. We will be sure to follow up with you if your questions are answered in our video.
Tealet will be exhibiting at the World Tea Expo along with the International Tea Farms Alliance where we will be sharing these stories and 2014 Spring teas as well as auctioning off the most prized teas that we encounter.