Darjeeling tea, tea from the Darjeeling region in West Bengal, India, has traditionally been prized above all other black teas, especially in the United Kingdom and the countries comprising the former British Empire. When properly brewed it yields a thin-bodied, light-colored liquor with a floral aroma. The flavor also displays a tinge of astringent tannic characteristics, and a musky spiciness often referred to by tea connoisseurs as "muscatel." A sweet cooling aftertaste should be felt in the mouth. Although Darjeeling black teas are marketed commercially as "black tea", almost all of them have incomplete oxidation (<90%) and thus these teas are technically more Oolong than black.
Unlike most Indian tea, Darjeeling is normally made from the small-leaved Chinese variety of Camellia sinensis, C. sinensis sinensis, not the large-leaved Assam plant (C. sinensis assamica). Traditionally Darjeeling tea is made as black tea; however, Darjeeling oolong and green teas are becoming more commonly produced and easier to find, and a growing number of estates are also producing white teas.
Tea planting in the Indian district of Darjeeling was begun during 1841 by a Dr. Campbell, a civil surgeon of the Indian Medical Service. Campbell was transferred to Darjeeling in 1839 and used seeds from China to begin experimental tea planting, a practice that he and others continued during the 1840s. The government also established tea nurseries during that period. Commercial exploitation began during the 1850s
According to the Tea Board of India - "Darjeeling Tea" means: tea which has been cultivated, grown, produced, manufactured and processed in tea gardens (see 'Estates' section below) in the hilly areas of Sadar Sub-Division, only hilly areas of Kalimpong Sub-Division comprising of Samabeong Tea Estate, Ambiok Tea Estate, Mission Hill Tea Estate and Kumai Tea Estate and Kurseong Sub-Division excluding the areas in jurisdiction list 20,21,23,24,29,31 and 33 comprising Siliguri subdivision of New Chumta Tea Estate, Simulbari and Marionbari Tea Estate of Kurseong Police Station in Kurseong Sub-Division of the District of Darjeeling in the State of West Bengal, India grown on picturesque steep slopes up to 4000ft.Tea which has been processed and manufactured in a factory located in the aforesaid area, which, when brewed, has a distinctive, naturally occurring aroma and taste with light tea liquour and the infused leaf of which has a distinctive fragrance.
Adulteration and falsification are serious problems in the global tea trade; the amount of tea sold as Darjeeling worldwide every year exceeds 40,000 tonnes, while the annual tea production of Darjeeling itself is estimated at only 10,000 tonnes, including local consumption. To combat this situation, the Tea Board of India administers the Darjeeling certification mark and logo. Protection of this tea designation is similar in scope to the protected designation of origin used by the EU for many European cheeses.
Darjeeling tea cannot be grown or manufactured anywhere else in the world, similar to Champagne in that region of France.
Traditionally, Darjeeling teas are classified as a type of black tea. However, the modern Darjeeling style employs a hard wither (35-40 % remaining leaf weight after withering), which in turn causes an incomplete oxidation for many of the best teas of this designation, which technically makes them a form of oolong. Many Darjeeling teas also appear to be a blend of teas oxidized to levels of green, oolong, and black.
1st Flush is harvested in mid-March following spring rains, and has a gentle, very light color, aroma, and mild astringency.
In Between is harvested between the two "flush" periods.
2nd Flush is harvested in June and produces an amber, full bodied, muscatel-flavored cup.
Monsoon or Rains tea is harvested in the monsoon (or rainy season) between 2nd Flush and Autumnal, is less withered, consequently more oxidized, and usually sold at lower prices. It is rarely exported, and often used in Masala chai.
Autumnal Flush is harvested in the autumn after the rainy season, and has somewhat less delicate flavour and less spicy tones, but fuller body and darker colour.