All About Darjeeling Teas
You are wondering what makes Darjeeling tea so special? Join us in our two-part series as we discuss all you need to know about Darjeeling teas.
Tracing the History of Darjeeling Tea
Darjeeling is home to some of the best tea plantations in the world. It is tucked away in a quiet corner in the foothills of the Himalayas in the West Bengal. It is said that the harsh winds of the Himalayas give Darjeeling tea the unique aroma it is famous for.
The history of Darjeeling tea is rather intriguing. It wasn’t the Indians who first Darjeeling tea. Robert Fortune, a famous Scottish adventurer, and botanist smuggled some tea seeds from the region. The botanist followed a treacherous road with skewed paths to give the gift of the Darjeeling to India and the British rulers who lived there.
The British wanted their own supply of tea instead of relying on the Chinese. This desire to take away the tea ‘monopoly’ from Chinese traders led to the formation of one of the first hill resorts in Darjeeling with the specific purpose of brewing tea.
Darjeeling had all the right numbers needed to brew the perfect batch of tea leaves. Darjeeling has cool weather, lots of sunlight, and unique topography to cultivate the highest quality of tea leaves.
Darjeeling has elevations ranging from 150 to 2100 meters, with an annual rainfall of 65 to 145 inches. The mean temperature fluctuates from 75 F to 52 F, before dropping into the 40s during winter. Being a skilled horticulturist who knew his craft, Dr. Campbell led the first Darjeeling project. He planted a few tea plants imported from China in 1841. The rest, as they say, is history.
By 1866, Darjeeling became a powerhouse known for producing over 130,000lbs of tea a year. Indian horticulturists acquired control of the Darjeeling tea gardens from the British after independence. Darjeeling tea managed to carve a name for itself despite the political upheavals throughout its history.
The Unique Taste Profile of Darjeeling Tea
Although experts believe there is no definitive way to describe the taste of Darjeeling tea truly, we will try to be as descriptive as possible.
Darjeeling has a muscatel, floral aroma with overtones of peach, apricot, and sometimes even cherry. Its texture has a welcome level of dryness and astringency that adds a sense of zest or tang.
Three prominent blends of Darjeeling are first flush, second flush, and third flush. Each flush is brisker than the one preceding it. Owing; partly to the oxidation levels of the tea leaves, each flush has its unique taste profile that ranges from light and delicate variants to robust and full-bodied ones.
What Does Darjeeling Tea do in the Human Body?
Darjeeling tea has been studied extensively in India for its health benefits. Evidence suggests that moderate consumption will slow aging and cellular damage. Darjeeling blends have an abundance of polyphenols and antioxidants that play an important role in preventing cancer and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
What are the Different Types of Darjeeling Teas?
Darjeeling White Tea
The Darjeeling white tea grows in certain areas, elevated over 2000 meters, and having cold temperatures throughout the year. Carefully selected fresh leaves are rolled and withered in direct sunlight. White tea has a delicate aroma and yields pale golden liquid that has a tinge of natural sweetness to it.
Darjeeling Oolong Tea
Only those estates that lie above 3000 meters and have a temperature between 5 and 20 degrees Celsius can make Oolong teas. The semi-oxidized leaves give the liquid its light orange appearance. The farmers will pluck delicate leaves and expose them to the sun and air. They will then pan-fry and hand-roll them.
Darjeeling Green Tea
Farmers wither and dry the leaves to evaporate the water. They then oxidize the leaves to stop oxidation to preserve the polyphenol content. Darjeeling Green tea has 60% more polyphenol content than other types of black teas. Darjeeling green tea has a flowery aroma, nutty muscatel flavor, and its brew has a yellowish-green hue.
Which Darjeeling Flush Is More Popular and Why?
The first flush teas are more popular due to their lively character and bright color. Some individuals are more predisposed to the first flush than other blends of Darjeeling tea. Also, first flush teas are low in supply, and demand almost always exceeds stock. Most tea connoisseurs prefer both first and second flush teas.
Where Does Darjeeling Second Flush Tea Get Its Taste From?
Darjeeling second flush has a popular taste profile because of its distinct muscatel flavor that no other tea in the world can match. A unique combination of typographical characteristics unique to Darjeeling, weather conditions, plant types, and even insects result in the muscatel flavor of the tea.
All these factors must come together to give Darjeeling second flush its unique flavor and enriched aroma.
How Much Caffeine Does Darjeeling Contain?
Although the exact amount of caffeine largely depends on the flush, the average amount is 50mg per 8 fl oz cup.
How to Brew Darjeeling Black Tea
Preparing this elixir requires more care than other teas because impurities can easily damage Darjeeling's subtle taste and aroma. It is not advisable to use a bar of soap to clean a cup or pot meant to hold Darjeeling tea. Instead, thoroughly wipe the vessel with a damp cloth to clear out any residue.
Never make Darjeeling tea with distilled water since it will dull the quality of the liquid. Use a thermometer and heat water to about 96 degrees Celsius. You can also do this without a thermometer, in which case simply boil the kettle of water and let it sit for a few moments.
Now toss in two teaspoons of Darjeeling tea leaves for a single cup. Pour the hot water over the tea and for two to three minutes.
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