Darjeeling Tea - The Supreme Choice
Known as the 'Champagne of Teas', Darjeeling tea is loved for its exquisite, delicate flavours and delightful floral aroma, with characteristics sometimes likened to a fine Muscatel wine. This fabulous tea originated from the Chinese tea plant, Camellia sinensis, but has been cultivated in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal, India for over 160 years. It owes its excellent reputation to the efforts of tea growers striving to improve their product over the years, resulting in more complex and unique flavours being found in its various forms. Although traditionally processed as a black tea, green, white and Oolong Darjeeling teas are also available.
The beginnings of tea cultivation in the Darjeeling area go back to 1841, when Archibald Campbell, a surgeon of the Bengal Medical Service, and first superintendent of Darjeeling, experimented with tea seeds and seedlings in his garden. A few years later, a botanist, Robert Fortune, was commissioned by the British East India Company to source high quality tea plants from China, which are said to have been surreptitiously obtained, since the purchase of tea plants was forbidden in China at that time. He is also believed to have returned to India with a team of Chinese tea workers, whose knowledge and expertise of tea processing methods was instrumental to the success of the tea industry in that part of India. Tea production increased over the years, and now there are as many as 87 tea gardens in the district of Darjeeling, employing more than 10,000 tea workers. According to the Tea Board of India, only tea cultivated and processed on these particular estates can be called 'Darjeeling', and be afforded the certification mark and logo as proof of its authenticity.
The town of Darjeeling lies in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, where some of the highest peaks in the world can be viewed, including Mount Kanchenjunga and Mount Everest. The vista is one of rolling hills, valleys, and forests that contain thousands of species of flora and fauna, including beautiful rhododendrons and wild orchids, and animals such as monkeys, tigers, leopards, jackals, otters and the endangered pangolin, to name just a few. There are more than six hundred species of birds. Situated at altitudes between 1,000 to 7,500 ft (300 to 2,300 m), the tea gardens of Darjeeling benefit from fresh, clean air and rich, well-drained soil. The climate is variable, with periods of sunshine, light breezes and frequent cloud. During the monsoon season the area is shrouded in a constant mist. The hills can be traversed by way of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (also known as the 'toy train'), a narrow gauge railway that runs from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling.
Darjeeling tea is harvested periodically between March and November, producing leaves with different characteristics depending on when they have been plucked. The 'first flush' is the first plucking period that usually occurs from mid-March until May; these leaves produce a light-coloured liquor, with a floral scent and mild astringency. The 'second flush' is carried out between the end of June until mid-July; leaves plucked at this stage produce a full-bodied cup with an amber hue and the delicate musky flavours and aroma that Darjeeling teas are famed for. The 'third flush', or 'autumn flush' occurs between October and November, after the monsoon season; tea from this harvest is darker, more full-bodied, and flavours are less delicate. Leaves are sometimes plucked in between the three main harvests, and timings of all harvests are dependent on weather conditions.
There is no doubt that Darjeeling tea is something very special, so it's no surprise it is one of the world's most expensive teas. How it is served depends on personal taste, as well as the characteristics of a particular tea. Darjeeling black teas can be taken with the addition of milk, lemon or sugar, but the subtle and delicate muscatel flavours are best appreciated when served without, particularly with first and second flush teas. It is important not to over-steep the brew.
At Tea-Direct.co.uk our range of Darjeeling teas are just some of the hundreds of wonderful loose leaf teas and sumptuous infusions from around the world, that can be delivered directly to your door. Through our network of gifted buyers, we carefully select the very finest varieties for your enjoyment, and swiftly deliver them to your home, work or anywhere else!