Darjeeling Tea is a type of tea which is often referred to as “the champagne of teas” because Darjeeling is to tea what Champagne is to wine, in more ways than one.
First of all, true Darjeeling tea is only produced in one location – you guessed it, Darjeeling – which is a region located in India, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas at altitudes of 600 to 2000 meters. Any tea grown outside of this region is not considered a “real” Darjeeling. Because of this, only about 1% off all the tea harvested in the world is Darjeeling. And it is for this reason that not only are there limited quantities of Darjeeling tea, but it also demands higher prices than most other teas.
There are five primary varieties of Darjeeling tea, which correspond to the time of year in which the tea leaves are harvested. The extremely valued “first flush” is usually the finest quality of Darjeeling and is harvested in mid-March after the spring rains, and has a light gentle color and aroma, with a slight sharpness to the flavor.
The aptly named “In Between flush” is harvested between the first and second flushes. The “second flush” Darjeeling is harvested in late June and boasts a full-bodied, amber colored cup with a hint of smokiness and a touch of muscatel.
“Monsoon” Darjeeling is harvested during the monsoon season, right before fall. This is a lower grade Darjeeling and is often used as the base tea in Masala Chai Tea blends. It is a leaf which is less withered, more oxidized and rarely exported.
Finally, the “Autumnal Flush” is harvested in autumn after monsoon season, and produces a bold full-bodied flavor with a much darker color.
Most Darjeeling teas also come from certain tea estates in the Darjeeling region, called tea gardens. There are over 80 tea gardens in the region.
As you can see, Darjeeling tea is a complex and interesting type of tea which offers many different, yet delicious varieties. Darjeeling tea is best savored without the addition of milk or sugar, however some people prefer to add a bit of sugar to enhance the natural flavors in the tea leaves.