Unlike the majority of teas from India, Darjeeling tea is made using the small-leaved Chinese variety of the Camellia sinensis plant. In the past, it was always made as a black tea. More recently, however, Darjeeling green and white teas have been gaining in popularity.
As its name suggests, Darjeeling tea hails from the Darjeeling region of West Bengal, India. The region’s tea plantations date back to the middle of the 19th century, when the British were moving into the area. Over the years, Darjeeling’s tea growers developed unique black tea hybrids as well as their own techniques for fermentation. Today, many Darjeeling tea blends are recognized worldwide for the extraordinary level of quality they offer.
There are five major varieties of Darjeeling tea. The first variety, known as "1st flush," is harvested in mid-March immediately following the spring rains. 1st flush Darjeeling tea has a very light colour and aroma, while the "2nd flush" variety, which is harvested in June, produces an amber, full-bodied, muscatel flavored cup. "In between" Darjeeling tea is, as you may have already guessed, harvested “in between” the two “flush” periods.
The last two Darjeeling tea varieties are known as “Monsoon / Rain” and “Autumnal flush.” Tea belonging to the Monsoon / Rain variety is harvested during the monsoon season. It is more oxidized than other Darjeeling teas and for this reason much cheaper and rarely exported. Autumnal flush is harvested in the fall, after the monsoon season. It offers drinkers a cup of not-so-delicate, full-bodied tea with a darker colour.
Throughout the Darjeeling region there are countless tea estates producing a wide variety of teas. However, some of the most popular estates include Arya, Chamong, Glenburn, Lingia, Castleton, Jungpana, Makaibari, Margaret's Hope and Risheehat.