Darjeeling Tea : The Champagne of the East
Darjeeling Tea occupies a place of pride for the whole of India. The aroma and taste of Darjeeling orthodox tea is unparalleled in the world. There are a total of 78 tea estates in the hills which have been accorded the status for its produce, as Darjeeling Tea by the Tea Board of India. These estates cover over 17,500 hectares producing over 9 million kg of tea engaging about 50 percent people of the district.
The Darjeeling Tea industry is the mainstay of the economy up in the hills and provides a rewarding life to its workers by way of a steady livelihood and other facilities like housing, statutory benefits, allowances, incentives, creches for infants of working mothers, children’s education, integrated residential medical facilities for employees and their families and many more.
In Darjeeling the first trial plantation of seed was planted at an altitude of 700 ft. by Dr. A Campbell and in 1845 an experimental nursery in Darjeeling was set up by the Government. In 1847 the Government planted a nursery at Lebong and the rest, as they say, is history. Tea plantations in Darjeeling are restricted to Darjeeling and Kurseong sub-divisions only. Kalimpong sub-division was left out as it already had agricultural holdings and reserve forest.
Tea is grown at an altitude ranging from 600 to 2000 meters above mean sea level and requires a minimum of 50″ to 60″ of rainfall in a year and for this Darjeeling did not lack. The cool and moist climate , the soil, the rainfall and the slopping terrains all combine to give Darjeeling tea its unique “Muscatel flavour” and “Exquisite Banquet”. The combination of natural factors give Darjeeling tea its unique distinction not found anywhere else in the world. Thus, it is the most sought after and highly valued. In the affluent Western and Japanese markets, 80% of the total produce is exported every year
Darjeeling still manufactures the original methods of tea manufacture, known as the “Orthodox” tea manufacture, as against the “C.T.C.” type of manufacture adopted in the plains, now.(C.T.C. stands for Curling, Tearing & Crushing). ‘Organic tea’ is a name given to tea grown using natural manure and ecologically sustainable practices. There is no use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in an organic tea garden. In recent times growing appreciation and demand for the organic products in the western countries have driven some tea gardens of Darjeeling to produce organic tea. ‘Tea tourism’ is the latest concept being popularised in India. The tourists are encouraged to stay in tea garden Bungalows with all amenities during which apart from enjoying serene atmosphere of tea garden they can also see the tea manufacturing process and the unique culture of tea garden. Nature walks, tea plucking session, trekking, rafting and golf is also on offer.
The Darjeeling logo is a hallmark of excellence. Launched in 1986, the Darjeeling logo has come to represent high quality muscatel flavoured tea with the unmistakable class that only Darjeeling can offer. The logo is a significant landmark in the history of the tea industry. Conceptualized by the Association in Darjeeling and launched in the international and domestic market by the Tea Board, it guarantees genuine Darjeeling tea, tested, and packed for the connoisseurs of tea throughout the world. The Darjeeling tea industry is a happening place and has more surprises to unfurl.
Black tea accounts for over 90% of the tea consumption in the western world. During theproduction process of black tea the leaves are changed substantially, allowing the characteristic flavors of black tea ranging from flowery to fruity, nutty and spicy to emerge.
Also known as partially or semi-fermented tea, the oolongs have some of the qualities of both black and green tea. At their best, oolongs are beautiful, full-bodied tea with a fragrant flavor and fruity, sweet aroma..
Green tea, for centuries the beverage of choice in Asia, is rapidly gaining popularity in the western world. Its natural aroma and widely acclaimed health benefits make green tea appealing to both the tea lover and previously non-tea drinker.When preparing green tea, it is important to use water below the boiling point and to carefully watch the infusion time to avoid bitterness.
White tea are the most delicate of all tea; the finest varieties are appreciated by tea connoisseurs for their unmatched subtlety, complexity and natural sweetness. The production of the most delicate white tea consists of only two steps: Steaming and drying. The absence of withering, rolling and oxidation leaves the appearance of the leaves essentially unaltered.
Blended, Flavored & Scented Tea
Blended Tea : Earl Greys, Breakfast & Afternoon Blends, Russian Caravan Tea and Lapsang Souchons.
Flavored Tea : Flavored Black Tea, Flavored Oolong Tea, Flavored Green Tea.
Scented Tea : Jasmine, Litchee and Rose Tea.
Seasonal Blends : Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter & Holiday Blends.
First flush Darjeeling tea
Traditionally, Darjeeling teas are classified as a type of black tea. However, the modern Darjeeling style employs a hard wither (35-40% remaining leaf weight after withering), which in turn causes an incomplete oxidation for many of the best teas of this designation, which technically makes them a form of oolong. Many Darjeeling teas also appear to be a blend of teas oxidized to levels of green, oolong, and black.
First flush is harvested in mid-March following spring rains, and has a gentle, very light color, aroma, and mild astringency. It is the most expensive of all Darjeeling Teas. In between is harvested between the two “flush” periods.
Second flush is harvested in June and produces an amber, full bodied, muscatel-flavored cup.
Monsoon or rains tea is harvested in the monsoon (or rainy season) between second flush and autumnal, is less withered, consequently more oxidized, and usually sold at lower prices. It is rarely exported, and often used in masala chai.
Autumnal flush is harvested in the autumn after the rainy season, and has somewhat less delicate flavour and less spicytones, but fuller body and darker colour. Darjeeling white tea brews with a delicate aroma and a pale golden color. The white variant of Darjeeling tea has a delicate aroma and brews to a pale golden color with a mellow taste and a hint of sweetness.
Darjeeling White Tea
Darjeeling white tea brews with a delicate aroma and a pale golden color. The white variant of Darjeeling tea has a delicate aroma and brews to a pale golden color with a mellow taste and a hint of sweetness. Darjeeling white tea leaves are very fluffy and light; therefore, it is recommended to use more (by volume) when preparing it than one normally would of other teas.
Darjeeling oolong tea – chocolatey oolong – characteristic of teas from the region.
The oolong variant of Darjeeling tea has two distinct types: clonal and China. Darjeeling oolong is lighter than usual Darjeeling black tea during first flush, as it is semi-oxidized. The cup looks light orange and infusion remains green.
Darjeeling Tea Terms
Below, Darjeeling tea aficionados will find, a list of tea terms to describe the Darjeeling loose leaf teas in its raw, dry, or infused state.
Bloom : A term used to refer to the silken sheen, silvery hairy lustre on the tea leaves, resulting from the neat distribution of fine pubescence on the leaf surface.
Bright: Referring to the infused tea leaves. The hue ranges from lively bright colour, as opposed to dull and varies from a delicate lime green ( with hints of fading coppery ) in the first flush or spring flush tea leaves to a bright copperpurple in second flush tea leaves and to a pale brown in autumn flush tea leaves.
Colour: It’s a term relating to the hue on dry tea leaves. Each flush has its own particular characteristics . First Flush Tea Leaves or Spring Tea as it is also commonly called has grayish-greenish. Second flush tea leaves or the summer tea leaves has a purplish-brown shade. Autumn Teas, have blackish brown hues.
Nose/Point: It’s a term referred to the infused leafs for their fragrance which has subtle hints of flowers or fruits or Muscatel character or sometimes showing characteristics of transuding all three combined.
Stylish: A term used for referring to dry tea leafs which are wiry, neatly twisted and evenly sized.
Tippy: A term commonly referred to the unopened buds on the tea bush which are transformed into silvery particles called Tips, and which provide an attractive appearance in the ‘finished’ tea.
There are many tea estates (also called “tea gardens”) in Darjeeling each produce teas with different characteristics in taste and aroma. Some of the popular estates include:
- Happy Valley
- Orange Valley
- Okai tea