The Versatility of Teas from Darjeeling Gardens

Summer is officially here and we are rejoicing with some great Spring and Summer teas from the tea gardens of Darjeeling, India. And their variety is quite astounding. My ideas of what is a Darjeeling tea seem to be changing daily, as evidenced by some recent tea experiences.


Our Recent Experiences

Selecting teas to carry on our online store can be quite a process. We do our utmost to sort the wheat from the chaff, as the saying goes, that is, the excellent from the so-so. After all, our focus is premium fine teas! In that vein, we reviewed samples of a number of Darjeeling teas to select ones worthy of that reputation. The results have been very satisfying and will be featured on our store soon.

  • Rohini Tea Estate 2015 First Flush Darjeeling Tea – FTGFOP 1 Jethi Kupi – made of the earliest first flush of the tea garden, very light tasting tea.
  • Rohini Tea Estate 2015 First Flush Darjeeling Tea – Exotic AV-2 Clonal – very special, made from their AV-2 Clonal tea plants (AV-2 stands for Ambari Vegetative 2). Very light in flavor, smooth with a characteristic fruity tang.
  • Giddapahar 2015 First Flush Darjeeling Tea – SFTGFOP 1 CL TPY (Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe #1 Clonal Tippy) – careful plucking assures the best leaves and a delicate, pure tea.
  • Giddapahar 2015 First Flush Darjeeling Tea – Limited-edition Hand-rolled AV-2 Clonal – super special tea made from their AV-2 Clonal tea plants (AV-2 stands for Ambari Vegetative 2), smooth buttery mouthfeel, fruity aroma in the dry leaves, pale yellow liquid with a fruity aftertaste. A second infusion retained that fruity quality.

We also just tried some more samples, with equally satisfying results and hope to have one or more of these featured soon:

  • Castleton Moonlight 1F 2015 – Dry – nutty, vegetal aroma. Liquid – smooth mouthfeel, fruity, nutty.
  • Arya Royal Moonbeam 2F 2015 – Dry – nutty, roasty, fruity. Liquid – rich, fruity, roasty, should be good with milk. THE BEST OF THE LOT
  • Arya Spring Diamond 1F 2015 – Dry – darker color, more roasty/peanutty aroma. Liquid – fruity, roasty, dark & strong enough to add milk. Leaves after infusing – highly roasty, almost coffee-like aroma
  • Arya Ruby 1F 2015 – Dry – darker color, nutty aroma. Liquid – roasty, even better for adding milk. Leaves after infusing – roasty coffee-like aroma.
  • Singbulli Clonal Thunder 2F 2015 – Dry – fruity, nutty aroma. Liquid – fruity aroma, taste is more roasty, should be good with milk. Leaves – fruity aroma.
  • Singbulli Emperor 1F 2015 – Dry – nutty aroma. Liquid – roasty, fruity, nutty, tangy.

Other Varieties of Teas from Darjeeling Available

Darjeeling Tea is mostly produced using an orthodox method that keeps the leaves whole during the production and is classified by size and quality as follows:

  • Whole leaf in either Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (SFTGFOP) or Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP).
  • Broken leaf in Fine Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe (FTGBOP), Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe (TGBOP), Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (FBOP), and Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP).
  • Fannings in Golden Flowery Orange Fannings (GFOF) and Golden Orange Fannings (GOF).

There are three or four periods of active growth during the year. These are called flushes.

  • First Flush (Late February to mid April) – the liquid is a light translucent color with a mild astringent flavor, and distinctive fragrant floral aroma.
  • Second Flush (May to June) – a world renowned tea that is more vivid in color and appearance than the first flush and produces a mature and mellow flavor where the famous “Darjeeling Muscatel” quality is pronounced; it also has a full bodied aroma.
  • Monsoon Flush (July to September) – used for breakfast blends due to it’s darker color and stronger flavor and aroma and because connoisseurs think the leaves picked during the rainy season are thought to hold too much water.
  • Autumn Flush (October to November) – a delicate, yet a silvery and glimmering character and a light brownish tinge or gentle copper glow in the liquid.

One thing that surprises people who’ve been drinking teas from Darjeeling for years is that they produce the same array as other tea gardens:

  • Black – The most common and traditional form, known for years and produced by almost all the gardens in Darjeeling, goes through all the stages of orthodox processing (i.e. withering or machine drying, rolling, fermenting, sorting etc.). 100% oxidized, fully dried up and then carefully cut up to absorb more oxygen. The liquid is darker in color and flavor ranges from fruity, nutty, and flowery to spicy.
  • Green – Dried and steamed but not oxidized, so many of the natural beneficial chemicals are retained. The liquid is usually light green in color and not suitable for adding milk. Use water heated to about the same temperature as for other green teas to avoid bitterness. Cost wise, compared with other green teas, especially those from Japan, this tea offers the best value and delivers a wonderful flavor.
  • Oolong – Similar to the traditional Chinese tea and in terms of oxidation it is between black tea and green tea. The leaves are hard withered and semi oxidized, and the types are Clonal and China (the original bushes and seeds were from China but that was so long ago that they are now being replaced with clonals having similar properties).
  • White – The most delicate Darjeeling tea commanding the highest price. Hand picked, dried in the sun, and hand rolled. Infuses a pale golden liquid with a hint of natural sweetness.

The Champagne of Pure Delight

Darjeeling teas are often called the “champagne of teas.” You can indulge to your heart’s content. No inebriation. Just pure pleasure.

About Janice and Stephen Shelton

Purveyors of Premium Teas
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