What’s a Darjeeling?

Posted on January 05 2010


First full day back yesterday and I was both pleasantly surprised at how much tea we sold over the last 10 days and dismayed at how many teas we are out of! Sent orders out and did a very quick inventory. Determined to spend today ordering tea and spices…

Darjeeling teas, like Champagne wines, is a name that is trademarked to the region where it is produced. About 40,000 tons of Darjeeling tea are sold every year but only about 10,000 are produced, so as you can imagine adulteration is a huge problem.

The town of Darjeeling is in the foothills of the Himalayan range in North West India in the state of West Bengal. The area was developed by the British in the mid 19th century in part, to avoid the summer heat in the plains.

The average elevation of the Darjeeling tea estates is nearly 7,000 feet, average rainfall is 122 inches, average high temp is 59 F and average low is 48 F. There are five distinct seasons there; spring, summer, autumn, winter and monsoon. The unique geographical and climatologically features of the area in combination with tea bushes started with seed from China produce a tea that is thin bodied, light colored and floral in nature. Darjeelings have a characteristic astringency and a muscatel note and are extremely popular in Britain and the former British Colonies as afternoon teas (without milk). Although they are categorized as a black tea darjeelings contain a fair percentage of partly oxidized teas and are technically oolongs. Because of that they can benefit from brewing in slightly cooler water (I like mine at 195 oF) for a shorter period of time (3-4 minutes).

Although historically Darjeeling has only produced black teas, many estates have recently expanded to greens and whites with surprising results. We have a couple of these in stock and I’m looking forward to getting there and re-tasting them to tell you more about the teas of this region.

And since I’ve run out of time the next blog will be: About “Flushes” and “Random” letters…


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