brunogm wrote:I ordered Muscatel Darjeeling directly from the Makaibari tea estate.
What can I say? When I first tasted it, when it was fresh, I gave it top rank in my personal tea rankings (I am keeping a spreadsheet where I rank teas from 0 to 6, and it got a 6).
But there are two caveats:
- after a few months, like after 4 months, this tea kind of lost its flavor and now I would give it a 3 (average rank).
- I am hearing some of Makaibari Darjeelings are not exactly from the Makaibari original garden, but rather a blend from the vicinity (not that it matters if the tea is good).
In Darjeeling, the mention of the name Makaibari illicits many responses, mostly negative, from people in the tea business. Why is that? Perhaps there is a lot of jealousy of how successful the name has become. Perhaps there is a lot of truth to the gossip of blending teas from low-lying areas and calling it Makaibari. Does Makaibari do this themselves, or do the outliers buy Makaibari and blend the cheaper teas themselves without the knowledge or permission of Makaibari? I don't have an answer to this question. I would have to believe one person's view over another's. This doesn't lead to fact. The fact is there is a lot of blending going on in the Darjeeling tea business and it has been shown that more Darjeeling tea is sold each year than is actually produced. Because Makaibari is such a well-known brand, it would make sense for blenders to use this tea and its name. Makaibari has marketed itself well and is world famous.
I have 3 teas from Makaibari. All were purchased 1 or 2 years ago in India. There are so many variations from this garden that I couldn't possibly tell you if they are 100% or not. None of my favorite tea shops in Darjeeling sell Makaibari. Maybe they can't get any. Maybe their production is pre-bought by distiributors. The biggest markets are Germany and Japan I am told. I would rank none of the Makaibari teas I have as top teas. In fact, there are many better teas, IMO, being grown in the region. But this would be up to you to decide.
The muscatel profile is usually associated with 2nd flush teas. I would encourage you to write to some of the online sellers in Darjeeling and ask directly what they think their best muscatel teas are. Buy some, compare, and develop your tastes. I trust Rajiv at www.teaemporium.net
but there are other sellers that posters here like and trust, too. Mariage Freres also has good teas but you will pay a premium for them. Because they are a big seller, they may have access to the best pickings. The tea business is much more complex than we realize.
Also, I don't know why some teas will still have a lot of punch after a couple of years and some will die. Many variables. Many different qualities in Darjeelings.