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Quebec, Maple Syrup, Darjeeling and Tea

Our German friends, Marten and Sina share their cross country adventures with us while staying in Quebec. (See our previous Blog about Marten and Sina -  Two Leaves and a Bus)

By Sina and Marten Verch

Two months have passed since we left Charlottetown to continue our journey through Canada. Two of our three months in the Maritimes, were in PEI where Lady Baker’s Tea had become more than a just a stop on our way further west. We had many tea times together but it was time to head to a new province. It was time to discover Québec.

Coming from a part of Germany where temperatures rarely drop below -10° C, it seems fair to say that the last two months here in Québec, we have been experiencing a real Canadian winter - a term that we have frequently been confronted with, especially by people who like to escape the snow and head south following the sun. But those who choose to stay, including us, are anticipating longer, warmer days soon in Québec, the world’s largest producer of maple syrup! For many it is an exciting time with the beginning of the harvesting season for this sweet maple nectar!

While many of us are still not entirely convinced that spring is on the way, nature's reawakening is in full progress. Not only in Québec but in northern India at the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, people show a particular interest in the weather and how it changes. Darjeeling teas (known as the champagne of teas) and maple syrup are both produced in regions where the weather must change in a very specific manner in order to begin harvesting. Maple syrup producers begin tapping their trees when the nights are still cold, but the temperatures rise during the days. In Darjeeling, after a cold and dry winter the tea plants need a combination of higher temperatures and rain in order to start producing the highly awaited two leaves and a bud .

Having worked for two German tea importing companies, I (Marten) remember how excited everybody is around this time anticipating the arrival of the first samples of the fresh “first flush” Darjeeling harvest. For a couple of weeks, hundreds of tea samples, which to the untrained eye look more or less alike, are being tasted in order to identify the lots which offer the most value for money. Once this is done, the challenge is to make the right call at the right time in order to secure those teas before someone else does. We wonder if people in the maple syrup industry experience a similar situation year after year. Whilst production is in full progress many sugar shacks open their doors to the public and offer food and drinks. What a great tradition to get together and celebrate the new harvest!

During our stay in PEI we talked to Katherine about the popularity of Darjeeling tea in Atlantic Canada and were surprised to hear that it is not well-known. Atlantic Canadians are culturally used to malty, darker black teas and so Darjeelings can be perceived as being too light or weak.  

However, it is worth noting that thanks to a unique combination of factors including a cool misty climate, high altitude, rich soil and careful plucking, Darjeeling teas create much finer and more delicate aromas than most other black teas. In fact, the teas produced in the 87 tea gardens within the district of Darjeeling are distinctive in their taste, aroma and texture and thus incomparable to any other tea in the world. The tea gardens produce teas from late February until November. Each season (called 'flush') produces a distinctive flavour character so Darjeeling teas offer an almost unlimited variety of flavours. Lady Baker’s Darjeeling tea, for instance, is a second flush tea from the well-known garden, Margaret’s Hope. As a second flush, it has a bouquet of floral notes with hints of currant and musky spice. Compared to a first flush tea, its flavour is richer and more aromatic with a mild astringency.

Based on their similarities in the time of harvest, the excitement of welcoming spring will forever bring Darjeeling tea and maple syrup together in our thoughts, especially having gotten a sense of a real Canadian winter  here in Québec!

We do miss home but as we are enjoying a cup of Lady Baker’s Darjeeling tea while writing this blog, every sip feels a bit like home.

Here’s an idea: How about we all make ourselves a pot of Lady Baker’s Darjeeling tea next time we are about to enjoy a tasty maple syrup treat?

To welcome spring...To celebrate seasonality...To pamper our senses. Cheers!



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