THE CHAMPAGNE OF TEAS

A perfectly brewed cup of loose leaf Darjeeling is one of the world’s most exquisite pleasures of tea. These teas are spoken for its aromatic musky flavor. Darjeeling prices are mostly approaching the champagne these days. As like champagne, Darjeeling is the only GI product protected by WTO patent.

In recent years they are into all four kinds of tea. It is one of the world’s expensive teas which are around $850 per kg (63,539.96 Indian rupees).  The moderate consumption of Darjeeling teas will slow the ageing and cellular damage. As these teas have abundant polyphenols and antioxidants,they play major role in preventing cancer and other chronic disorders.

History:

The origin of the tea is Darjeeling district, West Bengal, India. During the British era, Camellia sinesis seeds were smuggled from China and planted in Darjeeling by Archibald Campbell.  After independence under the 1953 tea act, the practices shifted as British began to sell their stakes in garden to Indians. Even though Darjeeling couldn’t compete with other teas at first, later in 2004 it has became India’s first product to receive legal geographical indication protection under the world Trade organization TRIPS Agreement and in 2011 it was given Protected geographical indication status in the European Union.

The Harvest cycle:

The Darjeeling tea leaves varieties are Camille assamica(native tea bush) and Camille sinesis (Chinese variety).Tea is usually grown at an altitude of 2000 meters above mean sea level. The unique “Muscatel Flavor” and “Exquisite Banquet” is due to the cool and moist climate (50-60″ of rainfall). The harvesting period of Darjeeling tea is from February to November which is divided into four flushes. Each flushes starts when the tea plants grow to new leaves and end when those leaves are harvested.

First flush:

The first flush takes place in mid February to April. It is said that the first flush of the tea is called the “spring tea”. To preserve the spring tea flavor they are less oxidized which results more greenish and typical black tea. Darjeeling first flush has the youngest and tender leaves of all the time which gives characteristic astringency and a sweet note of grape and fig. The arrival of first flush tea leaves were mostly perished in the tea industry.

Second flush:

The second flush takes place in early April and runs through May or June. The second flush acquires matured tea leaves with purplish hue and silver tips. These leaves grow rapidly than the spring leaves and gives muscatel and fruity flavor.

Monsoon flush:

The monsoon flush takes place in June to October. These leaves are larger and give a stronger flavor. They are mostly used for iced teas and commercial tea bag production.

Autumn flush:

The autumn flush starts in October and ends in November. These tea leaves are the fully finished tea. Even though the growth slows down, they give full and nutty rich copper color.

Production:

The Darjeeling teas were usually produced with orthodox or traditional method. The leaves are plucked i.e., two leaves and a bud and then withered gradually for about 17 hours and rolled to stringent characteristics. The next process is fermentation which gives its splendid aroma and dried. The final step happens with sorting out for leaves as full, broken, fanning and dust. Leaves are withered and then steamed which lacks oxidation gives green tea. In white tea only steaming and drying takes place.

Pride of Darjeeling teas:

  • In 2014, those teas from Makaibari which holds nearly 87 states were bought for $1850 per kilo by a private dealer. They were no doubt sold in stores luxury like century old tea boutiques like the Kusmi chain in St Petersburg and Berlin and Mariage Freres (the world’s greatest tea store in Paris).
  • The uniqueness of Darjeeling tea comes from the ancient manner of processing which influences the final essence of tea. Some handful techniques like sorting, withering, rolling, fermentation and drying gives a magical cup of tea. Darjeeling tea differ much flavor and taste from other Indian teas. Darjeeling tea develops its flavor and colors during the fermentation process which reaches its peak at ‘first nose’ then drops off and climbs steadily again to ‘second nose’. The trick is to arrest the process when flavors are at their best, a few hours too late and all is lost.

A Perfect cup of tea:

Boil the freshly drawn water in a kettle. Rinse it out and add one teaspoon (2.5 g) for a pure long leaf Darjeeling tea per cup to the pot. Pour water on the leaves and steep it for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes and let the leaves breath and stretch and strain into warm cups. Usually Darjeeling teas can be drunk straight than adding milk, sugar and lemon to it.

Darjeeling teas are meant for its excellent quality as they encounter more counterfeits. Darjeeling cannot be given or named for any other tea not unlike using the restrictions on using the name “Champagne”. Even though they produce 10000 tons per year but about 40000 tons were circulated around the market. To overcome this problem Darjeeling has been given a logo to ensure the originality. The covid 19 pandemic has given a huge loss in the sales of first flush which cause a chaos on the global market.

Even though the romance of tea gardens were still eye catching, these days they were threatened by the erratic weather climate and the migration of younger generation to cities (as it didn’t give profit to Indians than other countries).

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