Before you go jumping to conclusions, we’re not talking about your early morning bathroom rituals.
“First Flush” is a term we use in the tea world to talk about the first harvest of tea, which usually happens around this time of the month up until the first week of April.
(Two leaves & a bud. Source: flickr)
There are many names for this special time of year. Here are a few:
First Flush (English)
(Pre) Quinn Ming (China)
Sincha (Japan, not to be mistaken with ‘sencha’)
Ujeon (South Korea)
These teas are the first picked in a plant’s harvest season, are highly sought-after and have fresher flavors than the later flushes. Due to its youthful nature, there are properties in it that are highly coveted by tea connoisseurs and health-conscious people alike. It is said to yield the purest and freshest cup of tea.
The first flush is when harvesters pick the delicate and tender two leaves and a bud in the earliest spring growth, lending the teas a more light, floral, fresh, brisk and mildly astringent flavor (i.e. Darjeeling). These teas are generally less oxidized and may appear more greenish in color than typical black teas.
First Flush teas are the freshest and among the most exquisite, hence it’s usually a bit of an investment. If you can get your hands on some premium First Flush tea, it’s best to use it sooner rather than later. Store it in a cool, dark place in an airtight container (not see-through), away from moisture and other pantry items (like spices or coffee) since the flavors can leach into these delicate teas more easily.
Brewing will depend on the region in which the tea was grown and how it was cultivated, harvested and processed. Best to ask your tea expert, who can give you specific instructions on how to brew the perfect cup based on your purchase.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
Use fresh, cold filtered water (spring water is best)
Brew First Flush teas in slightly cooler temperatures and for less time.
So, use water just off the boil and steep it for 2-3 minutes, covered.
Use about a half a teaspoon per 8oz cup.
You can steep it multiple times so don’t discard the tea after first use.