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Darjeeling tea leaves are a variety of the tea plant Camellia sinensis. They are thin leaves, typically with a light color, unique flavor, and a distinct floral aroma. These qualities are a few key reasons why Darjeeling tea is so popular.
The name comes from the town of Darjeeling on the foothills of the Himalayas in West Bengal, India, where some of the best tea plantations in the world are located. Experts think that the distinct floral aromas of Darjeeling tea come from the harsh winds of the Himalayas, where this tea plant grows. The different flushes of Darjeeling tea leaves yield different results in color, flavor profile, and aroma.
The fermentation or oxidization process and flushes differentiate the various Darjeeling teas. Darjeeling black tea undergoes complete fermentation, Darjeeling oolong tea undergoes semi-fermentation, and Darjeeling green tea goes through zero fermentation, resulting in varied delicacy of the natural flavor profile.
Of course, the various flushes also result in slightly different flavors, bodies, liquors, colors, and aromas of these Darjeeling teas.
Darjeeling black tea is the traditional tea of the town of Darjeeling. It is grown nearly everywhere in Darjeeling, and it's also where the tea plant goes through all the processing stages, from drying (withering) and rolling to fermenting and sorting.
Hence, Darjeeling black tea is a fully processed tea that is 100 percent oxidized and fermented, unlike other tea varieties. It has dark brown, near-black color, and its taste is more robust than other Darjeeling tea types.
The flavor profile offers distinct, sweet muscatel flavors with spicy, musky undertones. However, the flavor varies between the different flushes, with the first flush being milder and later flushes having greater astringent characteristics.
Darjeeling white tea leaves only grow in specific areas on the Himalayas higher than 2,000 meters above sea level. The temperatures are constantly cold at such heights, making harvesting difficult.
Fresh Darjeeling white tea leaves are carefully selected, handpicked, sun-dried, and hand-rolled to preserve their original organic contents. They have a delicate aroma and light color, which yields a pale golden liquid with a tinge of natural sweetness.
If we look at Darjeeling tea prices, white tea variants are the most expensive. This variety has limited plantation areas, a harsh cultivation environment, a fine selection process, and a high international demand due to the soft aroma and unique taste profile.
Darjeeling oolong tea leaves are only cultivated in estates 1,000 meters above sea level, with a temperature between 41 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The farmers pluck delicate oolong tea leaves and expose them to sunlight and air for oxidation before pan-frying and hand-rolling them.
The semi-oxidized leaves give the liquid its light orange appearance with a tinge of gold. Often, the tea is steamed to retain more flavor and color. The tea offers mildly astringent and distinct muscatel flavors, much like Darjeeling black tea. Experts tout that Darjeeling oolong tea is the midway tea between Darjeeling black tea and green tea.
The unfermented Darjeeling green tea preserves the polyphenol content, which delivers the antioxidants that make green tea healthy and in high demand. Typically, Darjeeling green tea has 60% more polyphenol content than other types of black teas.
Darjeeling green tea has a flowery aroma and nutty muscatel flavor, and its brew has a yellowish-green hue. Unlike most green teas, you will taste superior notes of grass and herbaceous flavors. However, people new to loose leaf teas should make this light by adding more water because it can taste slightly bitter when brewed. High quality Darjeeling Green teas are not bitter in taste.
Like most foliage, Darjeeling tea leaves go through dormancy periods, mainly during the harsh winter months. Outside of these months, there are three main flushes that dictate the uniqueness and demand of Darjeeling teas, among other things like color, the richness of flavor, and strength of the aroma.
Also known as the spring flush, Darjeeling first flush teas is cultivated from March to May after the long-dormant winter period. The demand for first flush teas is usually high, so the first flush Darjeeling tea prices are the highest.
The spring tea leaves are light green and produce a light, clear liquor with distinct, mild floral aromas, a mild body, and the most delicate fruity flavors that make it such a unique and desirable flush.
Also known as the summer flush, Darjeeling second flush tea is cultivated during the summer months from June to August. The larger, darker tea leaves have silver buds and produce higher levels of the main, signature muscatel flavor that makes Darjeeling tea so popular.
There are more colors in the liquor and distinct floral aromas. The overall stronger flavor profile, incredible aroma, and range of colors of Darjeeling second flush tea are enjoyed by many tea drinkers, keeping second flush teas in high demand.
The third or Darjeeling autumn flush is cultivated from October to November in the harsh cold temperatures of the Himalayas. The color of the tea leaves is typically light brownish or coppery, which is why the liquor color has darker hues.
The flavor profile of Darjeeling autumn flush tea is distinctly different from all the other Darjeeling flush teas and leaves a strong and pleasant aftertaste. This is due to the creamier body and relatively bolder tasting notes.
Apart from these three main flushes, there are two minor flushes or "in-between" flushes. One is two weeks long between May and June, separating the first and second flush, and the other is during the monsoon in September, separating the second and third flush.
Since Darjeeling tea growth depends on the weather, the timing of these flushes may vary from year to year and location to location. Often, the rains of the monsoon period may shorten or lengthen the main second flush while doing the opposite for the minor monsoon flush.
Darjeeling tea is popularly known as the champagne of teas. It is protected under the Geographical Indication (GI) trademark, making it the only tea with this protection. Globally, Darjeeling teas are considered to be the best, most highly valued production tea in existence.
Himalayan tea plantation estates provide the ideal environment for cultivating Darjeeling tea leaves. Moreover, Darjeeling tea's unique muscatel taste, less astringent black teas, distinct floral aromas, delicate fruity flavor profile, intricate harvesting, selection, processing, and more complex and layered nature make it incredibly special
The greater care in the cultivation process and the shorter fermentation window help infuse some incredible health benefits in Darjeeling tea varieties. As a result, many people consider Darjeeling teas to be healthier than others. Here are some of its many benefits.
ALSO READ 7 HEALTH BENEFITS OF DARJEELING TEA
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