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Produced in the warm, humid climates of West Bengal, where fresh, clean air imbues the leaves with delightfully floral aromas, Darjeeling Tea Leaf is an excellent, light tea that offers up delicate fruit flavours, which are characterised as Muscatel, in reference to the Muscat variety of grape.
Indian Black Tea
While we try to keep to the strictest standards in our treatment of allergens, please be aware that our factory handles nuts, milk and soy ingredients. Please check our ingredients lists for specific information on each tea.
Your Guide to Darjeeling Tea
Darjeeling Tea is renowned for its excellence, and appreciated for its exquisite muscatel flavours and divine floral aromas. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that’s it’s regarded as the ‘Champagne of Teas’. This sought-after, luxury tea has been grown in the Darjeeling District of West Bengal for over 160 years, and owes its reputation to the endeavours of dedicated tea growers, whose expertise has helped to develop teas with ever more complex and unique flavour profiles. Darjeeling tea originated from Camellia sinensis tea plants from China, and although it is traditionally processed as a black tea, there are also green, white and Oolong varieties.
The History of Darjeeling Tea
Tea was first cultivated in the Darjeeling region of India in the mid-19th century, and the man who is credited with its introduction was Archibald Campbell, a surgeon of the Bengal Medical Service, and first superintendent of Darjeeling. In 1841, he experimented with tea seeds and seedlings in his garden at Beechwood, Darjeeling. Some years later, a botanist called Robert Fortune was commissioned by the British East India Company to try to obtain high quality tea plants from China. Although this was forbidden by the Chinese, tea plants were somehow smuggled out of China, along with a team of Chinese tea workers, whose experience of processing tea proved to be invaluable. India’s production of Darjeeling tea increased, and now there are as many as 87 tea gardens in the Darjeeling District, some of them still having original Chinese tea trees. According to the Tea Board of India, tea must be cultivated and processed on these estates to be called ‘Darjeeling’ and be afforded the certification mark and logo as proof of authenticity.
How Darjeeling is Produced
Darjeeling tea is grown in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas at altitudes between 1,000 to 7,500 ft (300 to 2,300 m), where the tree plants benefit from a variable climate with plenty of sunshine and rain. Tea leaves are harvested between March and November, and the characteristics of the leaves differ depending on when they have been plucked, or from which particular ‘flush’. ‘First flush’ Darjeeling leaves are picked between mid-March and May, and these leaves produce a pale coloured liquor, with a floral aroma and mild astringency. ‘Second flush’ leaves are picked between the end of June and mid-July, and produce an amber-coloured, full-bodied cup, with muscatel flavours so typical of Darjeeling teas, and a malty fragrance. ‘Third flush’ or ‘autumn flush’ leaves are plucked after the monsoon, between October and November. Leaves from this harvest produce a heavier-bodied, darker liquor, with bolder flavours. Tea leaves may also be picked in between the three main harvest periods.
The ‘fine plucking’ method normally used takes the tender bud and first two leaves from the tea plants. These leaves then undergo a withering process, where they are spread out on elevated grids with air circulating beneath them; this reduces their moisture content by up to 70%. They are then rolled mechanically to bruise them in order for their oils to be released and the process of oxidation (fermentation) to start, then laid out on trays to oxidise in humid conditions. This step can take minutes or hours depending on the tea flavour required, and the expertise of the tea worker is crucial to its achievement. A drying process follows to stop oxidation and remove further moisture from the leaves, before they are sorted and separated into different leaf size grades.
Types of Darjeeling Tea
Darjeeling teas vary in flavour and appearance according to when leaves are harvested. Below are some examples of pure Darjeeling teas and fine Darjeeling tea blends from some of the tea estates and gardens of the Darjeeling District:
A luxury black tea produced from second flush, copper-coloured leaves that are plucked in the summer months. When infused, they yield a full-bodied, amber liquor, with characteristic muscatel notes. An energising tea to enjoy at any time of day.
A delicate tea made from golden orange pekoe leaves grown on the Castleton Tea Estate, one of the oldest tea gardens in Darjeeling, renowned for producing the finest quality teas. With typical muscatel highlights and a subtle astringency, Castleton FTGFOP Darjeeling is a wonderfully refreshing beverage.
This aromatic black tea is made from flowery orange pekoe leaves, that reveal the classic muscatel notes and character found in the best Darjeeling teas. Mim Darjeeling Tea is an energising beverage that is perfect to drink first thing in the day.
A wonderful Darjeeling first flush tea from the Soom Tea Garden, that is made from choice orange pekoe leaves, and reveals light muscatel tones and flavours characteristic of a fine Darjeeling tea.
From the Tukdah Tea Estate in West Bengal, this delightful tea offers aromas of sandalwood, sweet, damp forests and plum, and typical Darjeeling flavours that are enhanced by a lingering finish of light floral notes.
Darjeeling leaf First Flush may be one of the most expensive Darjeeling teas, but there’s a reason for that; it’s a first flush blend of the finest top-grade teas, sourced from the Darjeeling Tea Estates of Phoobsering, Singbulli, Puttabong, Gopaldhara and Giddapahar. Together, they create a fabulous all-round tea that typifies the traditional, complex flavours of Darjeeling teas.
A delightful blend of quality Assam, Ceylon and Darjeeling teas, English Afternoon reveals the delicate, complex flavours of black Indian teas at their best. It is delicious when prepared with a splash of milk, or black with a slice of lemon.
Reviews of Darjeeling
Below is a selection of comments from customers who have enjoyed some of our top-class Darjeeling varieties:
This luxurious black tea is produced with the finest leaves from the West Bengal district of Darjeeling. It yields delicate and complex flavours of fruit, with a musky spiciness and fabulous floral aroma.
“This is an excellent tea and lovely drunk black.”
“This is a really smooth and lovely tea. It doesn't have high tannin levels. Drink it black! I brew in a pot for 5 minutes. This will be one of my regulars from now on.”
Grown in an area of West Bengal where the warm climate and pure air make for perfect growing conditions, Darjeeling Leaf Tea is an excellent, light tea with subtle fruit flavours, muscatel notes and a delightful floral aroma.
“Excellent taste, colour, and bouquet. A refreshing brew that I drink anytime. I'd recommend it to friends without hesitation.”
Mitch L. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“This is an excellent quality Darjeeling leaf tea. Large leaves with a delicate flavour. Perfect for my breakfast cuppa.”
Kathy A. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Margaret’s Hope Tea Estate, in the Northern Valley of Kurseong, took its name from the daughter of the original owner of the tea estate, who was so taken with the beauty of the Darjeeling district while visiting that she vowed she would return, but sadly died on her passage back to England. Made from delicate flowery orange pekoe leaves, Margaret’s Hope Tea boasts a complex bouquet, with hints of currant and muscat grapes that give it a distinctive muscatel character.
“Light and refreshing, with a pleasant subtle complexity.”
Mark B. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“This is really lovely darjeeling, I've drunk Margaret's Hope for years but this is particularly floral - delicate but full of flavour, I will order some more right now!”
Geoffrey L. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A luxury green tea made from second flush, flowery orange pekoe leaves that have been slowly withered, then steamed, to produce light, aromatic muscatel notes. The Nagri Farm Tea Estate was originally a dairy farm, but became a tea garden in the late nineteenth century.
“Rare, but simply the best.”
Phil H. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
What does Darjeeling tea taste like?
Darjeeling teas are appreciated for their characteristic muscatel flavours, but the taste of a Darjeeling tea will vary depending on when its leaves have been harvested. From first flush teas through to third flush, Darjeeling teas have been variously described as having flavours of muscat grapes, peaches, plums, apricots, berries and citrus fruits, as well as earthy and mossy flavours.
How should I prepare Darjeeling loose leaf tea?
Darjeeling loose tea should be prepared using freshly boiled water - preferably filtered tap or bottled spring water. Using one teaspoon (5 ml) of loose-leaf tea for every 8 oz (230 ml) of water, leaves should be steeped for 2-4 minutes at temperatures between 90 °C (194 °F) to 95 °C (203 °F). A shorter infusion period may be best for a first flush Darjeeling to fully appreciate the delicate flavours and fragrance in the liquor. Darjeeling loose leaf tea is best enjoyed when drunk without the addition of milk, sugar or lemon, although some people like to drink it with a dash of milk. For those who prefer it sweetened, a Darjeeling tea with honey may be a healthier option than with sugar. The clarity of a Darjeeling tea infusion makes it well suited for a refreshing Darjeeling iced tea or a healthy Darjeeling kombucha.
Where can I buy the best Darjeeling tea?
When sourcing the best Darjeeling leaf tea online, you need look no further than Tea-Direct to find some of the finest Darjeeling loose leaf teas available. You can browse our full range here.