by edgar on October 1st, 2011
Darjeeling is in the foothills of the Himalayas in West Bengal, northeast India. On these high, steep slopes there are 87 well known tea gardens that have been producing the highly prized black Darjeeling teas for over 150 years. The gardens are often grand estates or plantations that stretch over hundreds of acres and can sit at altitudes above 5,000 ft. They are still referred to as gardens and each one produces a tea that carries the unique characteristics of where it is grown.
The first tea bushes were planted in Darjeeling in early 19th century from the small-leaved Chinese variety of Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, rather than the large-leaved Assam plant (C. sinensis var. assamica) from which most Indian teas are grown. Along with Darjeeling’s unique environment, it is this that makes a Darjeeling tea so distinctive.
The quality of Darjeeling teas is the result of having the perfect climate and general terroir for tea cultivation. The tea bush grows at a height of up to 7000 feet above sea level. It requires at least 50 inches of annual rainfall with alternate spells of rain and sunshine. The high altitude mist helps maintain the required level of moisture. All this allows some of the most distinctive teas in the world to be cultivated here, possessing a specific flavour and quality that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Darjeeling tea has an official Geographical Indication which means only the tea cultivated, grown and produced in the defined region of the District of Darjeeling can be called Darjeeling.
Darjeelings are made from the finest two leaves and the bud and keeping to this means high quality, low yields and ensures the tea is exclusive and desirable with a limit of 10 million kg produced annually by the Darjeeling district.
We will be publishing more blogs this week on the different seasons, processing methods, and a feature on some of our favourite estates. We’ll be announcing the blogs on Twitter, Facebook or you can subscribe to our blog via a RSS reader.