An intoxicating aroma and a subtle, muscatel flavor are associated with good Darjeeling teas, but how did these teas ever become equated to wine?
A simple explanation is the combination of the climate, elevation, rainfall, terrain, and soil that these teas are grown in. Most of the plants that are grown in the region of Darjeeling actually come from Chinese hybrid seeds because Chinese seeds are more resistant to cold weather.
There are over 100 gardens in Darjeeling which produce almost 17,000 tons of tea per year. Most of these gardens are located around an altitude of 6,000 feet on sloping terrains that sometimes rise steadily at 45 degree angles. At this height, the plants grow in a cool, misty climate that receives plenty of rainfall which the leaves need in order to generate their fantastic flavor.
Since the tea plants in Darjeeling stop growing and become dormant in the winter months, there basically is one continuous harvesting season that produces four different kinds of Darjeelings. The first flush consists of the first new shoots of spring. This first flush is normally done in April and produces a greener muscatel flavor of tea. The first flush is what gets all of the tea tasters flustered. Because of the exquisite taste and quality, this tea is treated like and even compared to wine, and this flush can rake in some unbelievably high prices from competitive buyers at auctions.
In-between Darjeelings are harvested in late April to early May. These “in-betweeners” make an astringent but rounded cup of tea. The second flush is picked from late May to June and produces an amazing, well rounded, mature and fruity flavor of tea that is said to be less astringent and even better than the first flush. Finally, there are the
Darjeeling autumnals. This batch is harvested in October and November, and produces a very dark leaf and a full bodied tea.
Not to be outdone, the region of Darjeeling is now producing the increasingly popular green tea. This particular type of tea is said to have many characteristics similar to Japanese Sencha — a subtle aroma with a delicate, gentle taste.
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