Darjeeling Teas are from northern India. Darjeeling teas are regarded as the epitome of black teas. Darjeeling teas have a light muscatel or grassy taste, that often provides the top notes or interest in blended teas.
Darjeeling produces a high-grown tea in the foothills of the Himalayas, grown at up to 2,100 m (7,000 ft). Darjeeling benefits from a steady rainfall, light soil and a cool climate. Some of the older tea estates still grow China Jat with tea bushes grown from cuttings from over 150 years ago, so have still some of their heady sweetness.
The dramatic seasonal changes of this mountainous region show in the massive changes in the taste of Darjeeling teas:
- First Flush: First Flush appears as the snow melts and the rush is on to pluck the tender green shoots in February. The First Flush tea is light and subtle. These first flush teas are lightly fermented, giving an oolong style tea and at the green end of fermentation.
- Second Flush: main crop Darjeeling is picked from April and has an unbeatable taste. The best Second Flush teas have a typical muscatel - an almost meadowy fragrance of new-mown fresh hay.
- Autumnals: towards the end of the growing season in October - November, Autumnals can be fruity and mellow, with a depth of character that is not available at other times. Good Autumnal teas are available from Ambootia tea estate.
Darjeelings are relatively rare teas and the best are truly rare, often from very small pluckings of 100s of kilo rather than tonnes. So they are expensive and it is a false economy to scrimp and save. The best Darjeeling teas are orthodox teas, of Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe grade with a large leaf, plenty of pale tip and leaf green to light brown in colour. Darjeeling black teas are very green in leaf with hints of white tip.
Good Darjeeling tea estates include names like:
- Happy Valley
- Margaret's Hope
When brewing Darjeeling tea, do not brew it strong but add two teaspoons per size cup pot and leave it five minutes to brew. Only standard Darjeeling teas should be drunk with milk, others should be drunk on their own.
- Quantity: 1 teaspoon (2½ g) per cup or person
- Water: 90oC (195oF)
- Brew time: 3 - 5 minutes