Darjeeling tea takes its name from the region in the Himalayan Mountains of India where the plants are cultivated. Unlike Assam, its tea growing neighbor to the east, the Darjeeling area is smaller, higher, colder and, importantly, the plant which produces this legendary tea was brought from China by the British in the 19th century. It is not surprising then that Darjeeling tea is markedly different from traditional Indian blacks grown at lower altitudes from native plants. Prized for its unique character, aroma and flavor, the finest Darjeeling tea is extremely expensive with demand consistently outpacing supply. One reason for the high cost is the small leaves grow slowly and are hand-plucked in a labor intensive process. The Board of India places a certification mark and logo onto chests of Darjeeling so consumers will know the product they are purchasing is authentic, offering one explanation for the nickname “the Champagne of teas” due to the similarity with France’s strict labeling policy of its famous sparkling wine.
Darjeeling teas will vary by year depending upon the weather, the garden or estate where it is grown, and the "flush" or harvesting season within a year. Darjeeling has three main flushes when fresh leaves are gathered. First Flush, also known as Spring Flush, begins in early March and continues into early May, with the Second Flush following from May until the Monsoon rains come in June. In October, when the rains have ceased, the Autumnal Flush season lasts until the plants go dormant for the winter. Tea made from the leaves of each flush will vary considerably from a bright, noticeably astringent taste of delicate First Flush leaves which are infused like a green tea, to a Second Flush brew which offers richer fruit, less tangy astringency and hold up to fully boiling water without bitterness. Darjeeling tea is graded based on size and quality from “Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe” (SFTGFOP) at the top end, to “D” which indicates the dusty, fine powder that is often found in teabags.
At ArtfulTea, we offer a very affordable Second Flush called Daily Darjeeling (FTGFOP1). These organically grown leaves yield a bright coppery brew with a deliciously nutty flavor and mild astringency. For some tea lovers, the lighter color and flavor of Darjeeling more closely resembles oolong than black. We certainly appreciate how nicely the leaves hold up to a second infusion. Darjeeling makes a delightful organic iced tea in the summer months, and can be easily brewed in our Urban Tea Tumbler for a flavorful cup on the go. Hot or Cold, enjoy this Champagne of teas daily!