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What is Darjeeling Tea?

Darjeeling Tea is a tea which is grown in the Darjeeling District of West Bengal. Darjeeling Tea has a Geographical Tag which protects it legally and makes it unique. It is similar to “Champagne” which is sparkling wine grown in the Champagne region of France. Sparkling wine grown in other areas of the world cannot be called “Champagne”. It is the same case as Darjeeling Tea.

What makes Darjeeling tea so famous?

Darjeeling is unique and makes the best tea in the world out of 45 tea producing countries. There are several attributes which makes Darjeeling tea exclusive, (1) the location cannot be replicated. It’s proximity to the Himalayas, (2) Its altitude, the average elevation of tea gardens is 1200 meters AMSL (Above mean sea level). (3) The weather, the temperature which it enjoys, summer months the temperature is around 25 degrees Centigrade and the minimum average temperature during winter (December, January, February) is between 5 to 8 degrees Centigrade. Snow and frost sometimes occur at an elevation of 1500 metres and above. Another weather attribute is the rainfall, Darjeeling receives rain for four months from June to September, and about 5 to 6 months in winter the region suffers from a deficit of water due to insufficient rain. (4) The species or (Jat of tea), the tea plants are of China and China hybrid varieties. These species of tea can withstand extreme weather conditions. (5) Darjeeling Hill district soil is mainly acidic, and the major part of the Darjeeling tea area is on soil derived in situ from gneiss. It is chocolate loam with high nitrogen and phosphoric acid content.

History of Darjeeling Tea?

The History of Darjeeling tea can be traced back to 1850, and today is 170 years old. In the 1800’s British botanist Robert Fortune was given the task of smuggling tea bushes, seeds from China. He was successful in his pursuit and smuggled Chinese Tea into India. 

Dr Archibald Campbell was a civil surgeon with the Indian Medical Service. He was transferred to Darjeeling as Superintendent from Kathmandu in 1839. He brought tea seeds (Camellia sinensis) from Kumaun and began experimenting by planting these tea seeds. By 1847, the British government established the first nursery and soon the commercial development of tea started in the 1850s. The Kurseong and Darjeeling Tea company opened Alubari Tea Estate, and others followed. 

Why is Darjeeling tea priced so high?

Tea Pluckers use their hands to pluck the tea. It is a labour-intensive job.  Most tea gardens have a dedicated workforce which lives on the tea estate. They get amenities like housing, subsidised rations, medical facilities, education for their children and a host of other benefits. 

Typically a Darjeeling tea garden is spread over many hills and altitudes. It does not have a flat terrain; some areas of the tea estate are inaccessible by transport, and the tea leaves plucked are carried by the workers. 

Darjeeling tea is produced for only nine months a year from the end of February to mid of December. The tea bushes turn dormant during the winter season, and no production takes place.

It takes approximately 6 kgs of Darjeeling tea leaves to manufacture 1 Kg of Darjeeling tea. It is plucked by women, who toil in all weather conditions to pluck tea.

What makes Darjeeling tea so special?

The Darjeeling tea industry is close to 170 years old. A little unknown fact about the industry is that 80% of the tea pluckers are women, their nimble fingers pluck the industry standard of two leaves and a bud. This is one of the most important reasons why Darjeeling tea is of the highest quality.

What is a Flush?

Most people assume that harvesting is called a flush. It is when the tea plant starts getting new leaves which are ready to be harvested by hand or machine. 

When the tea plants come out of dormancy after winter, the first harvest is called “First Flush”, “Spring Tea” and the next season’s crop is Second Flush which is in summer, then Monsoon, Autumn and finally Winter Flush. 

First Flush 

First Flush, commonly known as Spring Flush, is the first harvest of the season. The tea bushes turn green with young tender leaves and shoots appearing on the bushes after the dormancy of the winter months. It is considered the best flush in the year. 

First, flush tea is in high demand by connoisseurs, and it fetches record prices. Usually plucked in a to leaves and a bud combination, first flush tea has the maximum antioxidants (catechins, L –theanine and also high caffeine.  Tea lovers across the world enjoy Darjeeling First Flush Tea. 

First flush Darjeeling Tea tea as described by tea taster Divya Puri as “a light infusion, with a pale yellow or golden colour which has a subtle flowery aroma. “Darjeeling First Flush tea is enjoyed by tea lovers worldwide. After the first flush, the rains set in, and there is a brief period that the tea plants become dormant; this is when they pluck and manufacture green tea.

Second Flush - The next cycle is called the second flush; it usually starts from the first week of May till the end of June. The tea leaves are more matured and have a well-rounded fruity character; it has more flavour. 

The teas made during this season are less astringent than the first flush tea. The liquor is bright and has a muscatel character; its taste is distinctive and usually on the sweet side on the finish.

Green tea is also manufactured during the second flush and it very mild as compared to other varieties.

Monsoon Flush  – This is the third cycle, often called as monsoon flush. They have harvested between July and September. The weather conditions are not conducive for making tea; there are heavy rains with very little sunlight. Tea made during this season has muted flavours. Leaves in these conditions are less withered and become more oxidised than teas from other flushes. Monsoon teas are ideal for making iced tea and tea bags, very often it is also blended with spices to make masala chai. 

Autumn Flush or the fourth flush, teas are usually harvested from October to mid-November. This is the last harvest before the tea bushes go into hibernation. During this season the temperature starts coming down, the result is tea with large leaves, which produce a nice dark brew.

What is the difference between First Flush and Second Flush Tea?

The main difference between the tea flushes is the season when they are harvested and manufactured. The leaves have a different appearance, and most distinctively the two teas taste different.  

Popular Darjeeling Tea Grades

Darjeeling Tea is mostly produced with an orthodox method that keeps the leaves whole during the production. When Darjeeling Tea is sold, it is classified by size and quality. Basically there are four Darjeeling Tea varieties or grades produced in Darjeeling which are laid below. 

SFTGFOP: Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (SFTGFOP) indicates that it contains many tips and are long and wiry in appearance. 

FTGFOP: Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP). These are a little smaller in size than the above.

FTGBOP: Fine Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe (FTGBOP) Darjeeling Tea leaves are smaller in size and are graded in decreasing order of quality.

TGBOP: Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe.

FBOP: Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe.

GFOF: Golden Flowery Orange Fannings

What does Darjeeling Tea taste like?

The taste of Darjeeling tea is as mysterious as the hill and the Himalayas. The unique flavour of Darjeeling comes from its bushes and its intricate harvesting and processing. It is lighter and less astringent than most black tea, but more layered and complex than most greens.

The nuances of difference are what marks Darjeeling tea – from delicate vegetal, mossy, fruity, and citrus flavours to its prized muscatel which has -sweet tasting notes are similar to Muscat wine. When you buy Darjeeling tea from a particular estate, the tea will taste different depending on when it’s harvested.  

What is the recipe for making the perfect cup of Darjeeling tea?

Follow these simple steps to brew the perfect pot of Darjeeling Tea:

STEP 1:  Fill a kettle with fresh drinking water, and heat the water, don’t let it boil. Approximately 85° C

STEP 2: Take a small teapot, fill hot water in it, and heat the pot for two minutes

STEP 3: Discard the water from the teapot before you pour the freshly boiled water

STEP 4: If the teapot has an infuser basket/filter add one rounded teaspoon of your favourite loose-leaf Darjeeling Tea (approx two grams or one teaspoon ) per cup of water/person

STEP 5: Pour the hot water directly from the kettle over the tea leaves in the teapot

STEP 6: Let it steep for 2 – 4 minutes as per your taste. Remove the brewed tea leaves to prevent it from over brewing

If you have bought good quality Darjeeling tea, you can brew it at least two to three times. Remember increasing the steeping time with each brew.

The best way to enjoy Darjeeling tea is to find your moment of solace. Take time out after your hectic day to savour Darjeeling tea and enjoy its subtle flavours. Sit back, relax and enjoy your favourite Darjeeling tea.  

What is the best time to drink Darjeeling tea?

Darjeeling tea can be had at any time of the day. Darjeeling tea connoisseurs will tell you “The best time to enjoy Darjeeling tea is when you want to seek solace from the maddening world. Sit back, drop your shoulders and sip your favourite Darjeeling tea in peace.

Should Darjeeling Tea be had with milk?

Would you like to add lemon or salt to Champagne? The answer is No. If you are drinking the Champagne of tea, enjoy it for its flavour. Try having it plain.

You can add a dash of milk to autumn teas which are darkish

Darjeeling Tea Loose Leaf and Darjeeling Tea bag

If you have Darjeeling tea in a restaurant, it is most likely that you were given a teabag. Commercial tea bags are usually double chamber or single chamber tea bags and hold approximately 2 grams of tea. Usually, it contains a blend of dust and some fannings, the flavour which you get from commercial tea bags is nowhere close to the flavour that you will get from brewing whole leaf loose Darjeeling tea.

Loose tea is the end product of the manufacturing process. This is by far the best. You will be able to tell the difference in the first sip if you have brewed the two cups together. Darjeeling Tea Loose leaf tea allows the leaf to unfurl and release its full flavour in the cup. 

Is Darjeeling Tea in a Pyramid Teabag a good option?

Nowadays, Pyramid Teabags are available with whole leaf tea. They are convenient and are also called as mini tea infusers. They have the correct amount of tea, approximately 3 grams. When you brew the pyramid tea bag, you get the exact flavour as loose tea as in most cases the same loose tea has been used in the teabag. You can buy pyramid tea bags online at Teacupsfulll.com

Which is the best Darjeeling tea?

It is a subjective question. You need to acquire a taste for Darjeeling tea, if you start enjoying it, then experiment it by trying some single estate teas. My personal favourite is teas from Castleton, Badamtam, Margarets Hope, Thurbom, Barnesberg, Oaks, Selim Hill, Namring, Arya, Runglee Rungliot, Singbulli, Balasun, Gopaldhara, Giddhapahar the list is pretty endless. It is really a matter of personal choice.

Best Darjeeling Tea in Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida

There are a number of tea stores in the city, many have been around for a while. The Teacupsfull tea store in Gurgaon has a heritage of over 50 years in tea, run by a Tea Planters family and second generation Tea Professionals, they are passionate about tea. They have a very strong lineage in tea which is reflective in their store. 

Where to buy Darjeeling Tea ? 

Honestly there are a number of tea shops that sell Darjeeling Tea. You can visit our Tea shop and experiential centre in Gurgaon where you to taste the best Darjeeling Tea before you buy it.

If you prefer to buy it online, the Teacupsfull Online Tea Store is the right place to buy Darjeeling Tea. Our legacy dates back to 1935, when the family settled in Darjeeling and when our Tea Master joined tea in 1965. The family takes pride is selecting some of the finest Darjeeling Tea each season. 

What are the benefits of drinking Darjeeling Tea ?

Darjeeling tea's leaves contain polyphenols, which are plant substances that combat inflammation and chronic (long-term) illness. The second most popular beverage worldwide is tea.  

The second most popular beverage in the world after water is tea. According to experts, even modest benefits of drinking tea could have a significant effect on world public health. There is proof that consuming black tea can:

Increased Heart Health

Recent research has demonstrated that tea's flavonoids, or phytonutrient-rich plant pigments, can reduce cholesterol levels. Having high cholesterol raises blood pressure.

Fights Cancer

Theaflavins and thearubigins are two significant polyphenols present in Darjeeling tea which are regarded as potent antioxidants. These substances offer defence against free radicals, which can harm cell DNA and result in cell mutation.

Additionally, tea polyphenols have demonstrated promise in reducing cancerous tumour size and offering UV ray protection.

Boosting Gut Health

Darjeeling tea's polyphenols encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your digestive system. While good bacteria aids in weight loss, bad bacteria may contribute to obesity through higher levels.

Avoid cavities

Black tea's natural compounds may aid in reducing bacterial growth, thereby preventing plaque and dental caries. Additionally, tea can balance your oral microbiome and get rid of the hydrogen sulphide that contributes to bad breath. Fluoride, which is found in tea leaves, helps to strengthen the enamel on your teeth.

Reduce Blood Sugar Levels

Diabetes is a long-term illness that interferes with your body's ability to use insulin, a hormone that controls the level of sugar in your blood. Because their bodies aren't producing enough insulin, people with type 2 diabetes have high blood sugar levels.

According to a recent study, black tea extract may help people with diabetes more effectively metabolise (process) insulin by lowering blood sugar levels.