If you’re searching for the best black tea, then Darjeeling tea is just that!
Although many westerners know black tea as just a morning tea, Darjeeling is more of an afternoon tea as it offers characteristics different than your ordinary cup of black tea.
A light-colored liquor was sitting in my cup, giving off an airy yet spicy aroma, I thought this was some chai/green tea concoction…but it was not. I knew by instinct not to add any milk as I do with other black varieties and to just drink it straight.
The taste was terrific, a light-bodied, sweet and spicy flavor followed by a cool aftertaste. “Definitely an afternoon tea” I thought as I quickly realized why this is known as the champagne of tea. However there is a small problem that is associated with Darjeeling tea.
Darjeeling is grown high in the Himalayas above 7000 feet in cool misty conditions. These conditions allow the tea to grow at a slow pace which means only so much of it can be processed. Although this helps keep this fine black tea in demand, it is the “demand” which is part of the problem.
Only about 10,000 tons of Darjeeling tea is produced every year, yet for some reason four times that amount sells under the name “Darjeeling”. So that means some of it is false tea and not the real deal.
India helped solve this problem by labeling true Darjeeling with a certification mark. So if you are on the hunt for some of this tea, be sure and ask or see if the mark is present.
The variety of Camellia sinensis that Darjeeling comes from gives 2 to 3 flushes a year, although an Autumn flush (the third flush) depends on appropriate weather.
The first flush is the springtime flush ranging between February to mid April. These first young leaves produce the finest tea, earning Darjeeling its “champagne” title.
The second flush is in June which consists of more fully developed leaves that give a more full bodied taste and darker liquor that is not as light as the first flush.
The third flush produces leaves more closer to black tea characteristics. They brew a copper-like liquor which is full in body and taste, and is suitable for a morning cup.
What about white, green, or oolong Darjeeling?
Although Darjeeling tea is mostly processed as black tea, there are some oolongs and greens that are processed as well. There is even a white Darjeeling type which has the same subtle figure as white tea, but with more of a spicy/floral kick.
I enjoy Darjeeling black tea, and recommend it to folks who know and enjoy the pleasures of loose leaf tea brewing. In fact, it is a must!