Darjeeling tea is prized around the world for its distinct aroma, flavour, and colour. Grown only in the Darjeeling region of West Bengal, India, at elevations up to 2000 meters, Darjeeling tea is unique due to its terroir, processing method employed by the top organic tea manufacturers, and history.
What makes Darjeeling tea so special?
Let’s take a glimpse at the factors that make Darjeeling tea such a unique brew.
The Darjeeling tea industry dates back to the mid-1800s when the British established plantations in the region. Tea growing expanded under colonial British rule. After India's independence, the government helped the Darjeeling tea industry modernize. Today, 87 tea estates produce approximately 10 million kgs of Darjeeling tea annually.
Terroir refers to the environmental conditions like soil, altitude, and climate that affect a crop. Darjeeling tea bushes grow slowly due to the region's cool temperatures, acidic soil, and heavy rainfall. This stress produces more complex flavours in the plant. The Himalayan mountains and mist create just the right conditions for nurturing high-quality tea.
Darjeeling tea is made from the Camellia sinensis plant. The large, tender tea leaves and buds produce a delicate, light-bodied tea.
The weather and the processing
White and green Darjeeling teas are minimally processed to preserve fresh, grassy flavours. Black Darjeeling teas retain floral, fruity notes despite being oxidized.
Second-flush Darjeeling black tea is the most prized harvest of the season, plucked during the late spring and summer. The warmer weather and rainfall create more amino acids, proteins, and sugars in the leaves. This produces an intensely aromatic muscatel flavour, often described as "musky spice." The tea brews to a bright, copper-coloured infusion.
Some Darjeeling teas are processed by hand-rolling or crushing the leaves to release flavours and tannins. Others are left with whole leaves to preserve a green, vegetal taste. Premium Darjeeling white teas are made from delicate leaf buds picked early in spring.
Darjeeling's unique character comes from both the growing conditions and processing techniques passed down over generations. The Darjeeling designation ensures the tea comes from a certified geographical region. No other teas can legally use the Darjeeling name.
Drinking a cup of Darjeeling tea is a sensory experience. The aromatic flavours and beautiful colour make it a treasured tea worldwide. While most other teas are harvested and processed on industrial scales, the top organic tea distributors in Darjeeling continue their time-honoured traditions. This delicate orthodox tea represents a legacy of terroir, history, and craftsmanship.