Darjeeling – nestling in the foothills of the snow capped Himalayas – grows one of the world’s most sought after teas. No other tea anywhere in the world has its unique ‘muscatel’ flavour and exquisite bouquet. “Darjeeling Tea” is a protected Geographical Indication (just like Champagne or Jamon Iberico).
Darjeeling tea is grown in the highlands. Contrary to its more prolific cousin – Assam Tea, this is grown in the mountains and the species is Chinese tea plant (Camellia sinensis) .
What is so special about Darjeeling tea?
It is known as the “Champagne” of the teas. The unique flavor of Darjeeling comes from Chinese tea genetics mixing with Indian environment—plus Darjeeling specific harvesting and processing.
Although classified as a “black tea” it’s lighter and less astringent than most black tea, but more layered and complex than most greens.
Darjeeling still manufactures the original methods of tea manufacture, known as the “Orthodox” tea manufacture, as against the “C.T.C.” type of manufacture adopted in the plains (for example, Assam Tea). “C.T.C.” stands for Curling, Tearing & Crushing.
The modern Darjeeling style employs a hard wither (35-40% remaining leaf weight after withering), which in turn causes an incomplete oxidation for many of the best teas of this designation, which technically makes them a form of oolong. Many Darjeeling teas also appear to be a blend of teas oxidized to levels of green, oolong, and black.
First Flush and Second Flush
What is the fuss about flush?
Tea from the same tea estate tastes different based on when it is harvested. The periodic harvests, called flushes, span the tea growing season, punctuated by the regular high mountain rains.
From the first to the last harvest, the general flavour trend is light and delicate to robust and full-bodied. The second flush from the more mature plant is where the wine-like flavors come out. But, the highly prized first flush, which uses the very youngest leaves, is where you can find some really interesting, delicate, and smooth fresh ethereal mountain air flavours.
The late flushes (autumn) have caramel notes.
Why is Darjeeling Tea so flavourful?
According to tea scientists, geraniol, linalool, terpenoids and some fatty acid degradation products add to the nature and the characteristic flavor of Darjeeling tea. There were research works carried out in Tocklai and its findings have revealed that the Darjeeling tea in comparison to other teas is much more stronger and volatile. The Volatile Flavoury Constituency (VFC) and the content of monoterpene alcohol are five times higher in Darjeeling tea from the hills compared to the North eastern plains. The cold, dry windy nights, humid moisture laden day with relatively low temperature prevailing through out the year has been accredited for the formation of VFC. Further the genetic makeup of the tea plants also imparts higher VFC formation. Therefore it can be stated that the contact and combinative interaction between climate, soil and genotype produces the famous tea in the world – The Champagne of Teas.
Darjeeling Tea Logo
The Darjeeling tea logo (courtesy Darjeeling Tea), created in 1983, is registered in various jurisdictions including India, the United States, Japan and some European countries. It is internationally registered under the Madrid system (Registration No. 528696).
Both the logo and the word “Darjeeling” are registered domestically under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act of 1999 of India. The geographical indication (GI) protection is significant, particularly when CTM registration is not accepted in a jurisdiction where protection is sought, for example, in France for Darjeeling. Additionally, under European Union (EU) Regulation 2081/92, GI registration is necessary to obtain reciprocal protection of a mark.
Darjeeling tea is compared to wine by tea aficionados. It is known as the “Champagne of Teas”
Darjeeling tea plants are actually Chinese species (Camellia sinensis).
In Darjeeling the first trial plantation of seed was planted at an altitude of 700 ft. by Dr. A Campbell and in 1845 an experimental nursery in Darjeeling was set up by the Government. In 1847 the Government planted a nursery at Lebong and the rest, as they say, is history.
There are a total of 78 tea estates in Darjeeling (and Kurseong) which have been accorded the status for its produce, as Darjeeling Tea by the Tea Board of India. These estates cover over 17,500 hectares producing over 9 million kg of tea annually.
When Darjeeling teas are sold, they are graded by size and quality. The grades fall into four basic groups: whole leaf, broken leaf, fannings, and dust.