The cult of Darjeeling tea

on August 18, 2020

Unquestionably India’s best-known tea, Darjeeling tea has won the title of the “champagne of teas”. While discerning tea lovers are passionate aficionados of Darjeeling tea, it’s natural for the rest of the population to question why the name ‘Darjeeling’ deserves such fame.

What is Darjeeling tea?

The uniqueness of its flavour is evident in the very first sip. No other tea offers this rare ‘muscatel’ flavor – an enchanting balance of brisk floral notes and a honeyed, almost buttery aftertaste.

Darjeeling tea comes from the Darjeeling district in West Bengal, India. Steep Himalayan slopes with slightly acidic soil, along with paradoxical and generous doses of both cloud cover and sunshine, give the tea leaves their distinctive aroma and taste.

What are flushes?

A tea of this stature comes with its own terminology. Before buying Darjeeling tea one needs to know about the different ‘flushes’ (harvesting seasons). The character and quality of Darjeeling tea varies dramatically over the course of each year.

There are two main tea harvest seasons in India.

After a period of dormancy during the winter months, Darjeeling’s tea plants wake up in early spring and put forth the first new growth or “flush” of the year. Flamboyantly green leaves are picked and processed to give an abundance of golden tips. On brewing, the First Flush tea yields a light lemony liquor, amazingly fresh and flowery tasting.

From May onwards, the second flush is produced. The leaves are more succulent and the liquor yielded is a deep amber, mahogany one. The quality most prized in Second Flush teas is a pronounced muscatel flavour. The fruity character is reminiscent of the Muscat family of grapes (from which it gets its name, muscatel). With a flavour it shares with no other, it is indisputably the most complex black tea in the world.

So, which
Darjeeling tea to buy?

The quality of Darjeeling teas is as dependent on human factors as it is on environmental ones. Which is why it’s always best to buy loose leaf Darjeeling teas directly from the source to truly enjoy them in all their glory.