Darjeelingtea has a very appealing and attractive image all over the world due to the qualities it is known to possess. Its widespread popularity is a result of intensive care and labour that goes into producing this tea. Every tea garden takes careful precautions and measures to ensure that the tea comes with top-notch quality Similarly, the climatic conditions are exclusive to the region. The fact that the exquisite wine-like taste only comes from Darjeeling tea is what makes this so desired. Its negligible supply makes it even more sought after.
What makes Darjeeling tea different?
Also referred to as ‘The Champagne of Teas’, Darjeeling tea is highly prized owing to its ‘muscatel’ (taste of grape wine) tinge. This type of tea is processed and manufactured keeping certain requirements in mind. Furthermore, there are various periods of harvest, also called flushes, that influence the eventual taste of its loose leaf tea. Flushes depend on the time the tea leaves are plucked. Each flush produces a tea of its own kind, with changes in taste, colourand aroma.
There are a few crucial factors that lend the ‘unique’ tag to Darjeeling Tea.
The tea in Darjeeling has certain climatic requirements. There is a minimum requirement of 50" to 60" of rainfall in a year. The temperature ranges from 1 ºC to 11 ºC with a maximum of 20 ºC. These conditions are perfectly matched in Darjeeling. The climate, the soil, the rainfall and the slopping terrains all add to provide various tea benefits in terms of its uniqueness and authenticity. This blissful blend of natural factors and prerequisites give Darjeeling tea its own distinction.
It is also grown at an altitude ranging from 600 to 2000 meters above mean sea level. The slopping terrains at the said altitude is beneficial for drainage in the region, preventing flood and excess amounts of water. Since Darjeeling is one of the highest tea-growing regions, its teas possess some of the highest amounts of antioxidants.
Most tea gardens are situated at 750 – 2000 metres in Darjeeling. This altitude allows sufficient amount of moisture, rainfall and sunshine to penetrate these tea gardens. These are instrumental to the unique Darjeeling tea taste.
The harvesting method has a great significance to the overall taste of tea. While the leaves are still covered in dew (which is about 4 am), the workers being their work and start plucking the tea leaves. Plucking tea is done with great care since only the tender shoots of the plant are required.
When you drink Darjeeling first flush tea, you are tasting some of the freshest and most exquisite tea that is available out there. Tea connoisseurs and fanatics appreciate the first and second flush more than others due to the apparent differences in quality. The time of harvest has a great influence on the taste of the tea which the world admires.
The first flush is said to produce a tea that embodies a gentle, very light colour, aroma, and mild astringency. This occurs between in the month of March.
The second flush takes place in June, and produces an amber, full-bodied, muscatel-flavoured cup of tea. It is said to be winey and spicy in taste.
The third flush happens in the monsoon season. These take on stringer tastes.
· The fourth flush occurs after the rainy season. It is characterized by a stronger flavour with less spicy undertones. The liquid turns into a darker body.
This is the final stage before tea is sent out for export. It is a skill to be able to differentiate the changes in quality in each batch. Only planters with a fine-tuned sense of taste are allowed to judge the quality of the tea.
The process begins with judging the visual appearance and aroma of the dry tea. After that, the taster does his/her job and identifies the best after close inspection. This is perhaps the most important step, because it is the taster who decides what you drink in your cup.
So, as pointed out, there are multiple factors that give shape to this concoction of unique Darjeeling tea flavors. It is through a long series of steps and measures that we get the authentic taste in front of us. It is interesting to point out that the Queen of England was offered Darjeeling Tea as a token of appreciation from India’s Prime Minister. Such is the status and admiration that comes with Darjeeling tea.