At the base of the Himalayas, the Darjeeling district is located in the West Bengal state of India in the northeast corner of the country. Darjeeling has only produced tea since the 1830s. While trying to grow tea in India, the British discovered the native Chinese tea bush (camellia sinesis sinesis) grew well in Darjeeling's high elevation (the average elevation is 7,000 feet). The British plantations marketed tea from that era as the Champagne of teas, even though the steeped tea was heavy, dark and brisk.
In the 1960s Indian processors began to experiment with producing a lighter Darjeeling tea. Today the younger part of the plant (two leaves and a bud) is hand plucked, and the tea leaves are withered for a long time in heated troughs. In addition the tea leaves are fired for a shorter time than other black teas. The result is a more aromatic and flavorful tea with a lighter body and more astringency than the original Darjeeling teas.
Today there are 87 tea estates in Darjeeling, each with a unique micro-climate which affects the tea's aroma and flavor. Darjeeling teas are characterized by their flushes: first flush (spring), second flush (early summer), monsoon flush, and autumnal flush. First flush teas are described as delicate and fresh. Second flushes are more aromatic, nutty and strongly flavored.
- Steep at a slightly lower temperature than boiling. Pour the hot water into your mug or teapot first and then add the tea leaves.
- Experiment with steeping for less time than other black teas. Try 3-4 minutes to start.
- Relax and enjoy your tea!
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