What is Darjeeling tea?
We are often asked the question, what is Darjeeling tea? Is it a type of tea? Is it a place? Being self-styled Darjeeling tea specialist we thought of putting together a small post here that answers the question. Hope it is helpful for tea lovers.
Tea that is grown in the Himalayan foothills of Darjeeling district located in north East India is known as Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling is renowned for producing some of the most exquisite black teas in the world, often enjoying the sobriquet "champagne of teas."
The Darjeeling tea industry was set up in colonial India by the British in the mid 1800s. The tea grown was mainly transplants from Fujian, China. Later, bushes from Assam and locally developed clones were added.
Darjeeling is a tea with a relatively delicate body. It has a light but memorable "perfume" of refined floral and fruity aromas. Most tea aficionados are not drawn to Darjeeling for its "strength" but to its subtle beauty.
There are four growing seasons into which Darjeeling tea is categorized. Also called "flushes," these categories are first flush (tea grown during spring), second flush (tea grown during summer), rains tea (tea grown during monsoon) and autumn flush (tea grown during fall).
First and second flushes tea are most sought after by Darjeeling tea fans. However, because of promotion and improvement in manufacturing techniques autumn flush is also gaining a good following. To read more about Darjeeling tea flushes click here.
The tea is best made in a glazed ceramic or a glass tea pot. Generally a tea spoon (for small leaf varietal) and a table spoon (for large leaf varietal) is used to make a cup of tea. Water temperature should be near boiling (170F-180F) for first flush and for others boiling water may be used. For more on making a perfect cup of Darjeeling go here.
There are nearly 70 odd tea gardens in Darjeeling. An average garden is around 600 acres employing about 800 resident workers. Notably, all the plucking of the tea is done manually. For more on manufacturing of Darjeeling tea read here.
Elevation of Darjeeling tea growing region stretches from approximately from 150 meters - 2100 meters above sea level. Tea from higher elevation gardens are more prized. However, sometimes tea from some lower elevation garden if skillfully made can be as good.
Darjeeling perhaps is the only tea in the world with the Geographical Indicator Mark. Just like Champagne has to be a product made in the French province of Champagne, Darjeeling tea has to come from the region of Darjeeling. The GI Mark prevents other teas from claiming to be Darjeeling.