Tea is an agro-commodity. Thus, the weather has an important role to play on the characteristics of the leaves and thus, on the quality of the processed tea. The leaves growing on the same bush can yield absolutely different kinds of tea depending upon the time of the year they are plucked.
Based on the season the green leaves are plucked from the tea bushes the made teas are categorized into different flushes. Primarily, there are four flushes, namely First Flush, Second Flush, Monsoon Flush and Autumn Flush.
After a long period of dormancy during winter, the tea bushes start sprouting with the onset of spring. The leaves that sprout during this time are known as First Flush teas. They are also known as the Spring Flush. Usually, First Flush lasts from the end of February till the middle of April. The dry leaves are greenish in colour and are very delicate. They are extremely tender and yield a floral, pale yellow cup. First flush teas from the Darjeeling area are so unique that tea connoisseurs call it the champagne of teas.
From approximately the middle of April till the beginning of June is the time for the Second Flush. It is also known as the Summer Flush. The leaves during this period are more mature and they yield a brisk, full-bodied cup. The buds growing during the second flush, when processed, develop of golden colour. This leads to their nomenclature of golden tips. The presence of tips renders a sweet, fruity flavour note to the cup. The dry leaves are coppery in colour. The cup is brisk with a lasting malty aftertaste. Second flush teas from the Darjeeling have a unique muscatel flavour which cannot be replicated in teas from any other region in the world.
Monsoon Flush usually runs from June through September. The bushes sprout faster during the rainy season and the leaves are larger in size than the previous two flushes. The flavour profile is far less complex and is flat in taste. Often the leaves from the monsoon flush are used to manufacture green teas. Good quality green teas produced during this time are characterized by a marine smell and an astringent mouthfeel.
The last flush is the Autumn Flush which usually lasts during October and November. The dry leaves are dark brown in colour and often tend to be blackish. The cup is usually rich and nutty with a heavy mouthfeel. The infusion is reddish brown in colour. Autumn flush teas are often over-fired to make roasted teas. Roasted teas, when brewed, yield a smoky aroma with a caramelly taste.
The time duration between two consecutive flushes is called banjhi period. The bushes are usually lightly pruned or allowed to rest in order to prepare them for the next flush. If leaves are plucked from the bushes during this period and processed they yield a stalky and fibrous made tea. The cup is usually harsh and bitter in taste.
#FYI: Flush is often mistaken as the harvesting of tea. However, flushes actually refer to the different harvest periods or seasons.