A few days ago I visited one of my favourite locations in Ottawa: the “Oh So Good Desserts & Coffee House”. This summer they opened a second location on 261 Richmond Road in Westboro, spacious, stylish and well equipped like the one on York Street. Both locations have this “cosiness-flair” which makes them polar opposites to most of the “public office”-coffee shops in town.
I had some of my black Darjeeling teas with me for a cup tasting with Sarp, a Barista and future tea sommelier who is managing the Westboro location. We tasted three teas: the Single Estate First Flush Pussimbing, Single Estate Second Flush Chamong and the Darjeeling Selected.
Our target was to find the best way of preparation for each "cup of Mary". For that we experimented with different tea-water ratios and steeping times. To avoid changing to many parameters, we choose a water temperature of 96 - 98°C for all the teas.
Sarp prepares the cup tasting
To make a long tea tasting short: we both preferred the two Single Estate-teas at a ratio of 2g tea: 250ml water and a steeping time of 3 – 3.5 minutes. Ratios with more tea and/or longer steeping times were still good (and may be preferred by many people), but we found the taste intense, overwhelming the palates, and by that covering the fine flavours. Also, the astringency was, especially for my perception, to strong.
However, the Darjeeling Selected developed its flavour much better with a ratio of 2.3 – 2.5g tea: 250g water and a steeping time of 3.5 – 4 minutes.
Tea tasting is, like all kinds of food tasting, a great thing to do, and an important one! After the long chain of harvesting, processing, storing, packing, shipping etc., a great product like a Darjeeling tea (but also all other quality products) deserve a perfect preparation at the final link of this chain. To get the best result in a cup, all parameters like ratio, water temperature and steeping time, but also other factors like storage conditions have to be taken into consideration - in a perfect way. This is also the most respectful way to appreciate the work of all of the people involved in that long chain of tea.
A good spirit...