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Have you ever wondered what exactly is a Darjeeling muscatel? It is a terminology used generally with second flush teas and it is definitely hard to describe, yet it is something that is absolutely marvelous. We did a google search and found that tea drinkers have a different opinion about what muscatel is. Most thought the word implies grapey, while others have described it as dried raisins, honey, sweet cantaloupe, lychee, plum, woody, rose-like, etc.
One thing for sure, muscatel is a very distinctive flavor that is often present in second flush Darjeeling teas. So in simple words muscatel is not a type of tea but it is a flavor. So why, the confusion? That answer is simple, no two Darjeeling teas taste the same and have subtle differences in their flavor profile. Flavors of teas from the two Darjeeling gardens are usually different and dependent on the clone, altitude, processing methods, etc. Interestingly, the same tea made by the same garden might differ from year to year and even batch to batch made on different days of the same week. Therefore, the changes in flavor, though subtle, we feel are enough to cause confusion.
The word muscatel was coined by Mr. A.K. Gomden who was the tea master at a Darjeeling tea garden called Castleton Estate. He noticed that a batch of tea that he had crafted was unusually aromatic and flavorful, unlike the black teas that they usually made. Realizing that he was onto something special, he looked through the dictionary and settled on the word muscatel. The muscatel tea since then was a great success in Indian auctions and is very prized and covetted in international circles.
The term used for the description of the muscatel flavor of Darjeeling second flush teas, means fruity or grapey and is borrowed from muscatel wines which are dessert wines that are usually rich, full bodied, sweet with fruity, floral and often woody flavor notes. The muscatel grape that has its origins in the Mediterranean is an extremely aromatic and flavorful grape which is used to make dessert wines. The Muscatel grapes and the wines made from them, have diverse flavors and mouthfeel, but have been most commonly described as sweet, fruity, grapey, floral and woody. The skin of the muscatel grape is musky and woody, while the flesh itself is very sweet, fruity and floral. The fruity flavor notes experienced are varied and have been described as lychee, tangerine, mango, peach, grapey and raisin. Different floral notes of jasmine, rose, orange-blossom and honeysuckle have also been described with the Muscatel grape. In our teas especially our second flush Darjeeling, you will definitely appreciate the muscatel flavor and how sensational it is.
As the Herbs & Kettles flavor wheel was created to help with the description of Indian teas, we decided muscatel should be its own flavor and not sub categorized under fruity. As you drink our Indian teas, especially second flush Darjeeling teas you will definitely begin to appreciate the muscatel flavor.
In discussion with tea growers from Darjeeling who we collaborate with, there were discussions that there is more to muscatel than just being a flavor. Muscatel also relates to the wine-like mouthfeel that second flush Darjeeling teas have.
So what does this mean for you dear reader- try some of our marvelous Darjeeling muscatels, and experience their wine-like mouthfeel and flavor profile. You will find that the word muscatel aptly categorizes these extraordinary second flush Darjeeling teas, but yet, the subtle differences between the muscatel teas are tantalizing and so enjoyable. Welcome to the amazing world tea, where there is no one right answer, but much to enjoy and experience! We would love to hear from you and about what you think of muscatel.