Darjeeling tea, also known as “the Champagne of Teas,” is a great non-alcoholic way to say, “Welcome, New Year!” Sure, hoisting a glass full of bubbly champagne is traditional for such a toast. But some of us need another choice for various reasons.

There are those of us can’t take even small amounts of alcohol, while others choose not to imbibe this type of beverage, and still others have allergic reactions to something in the real champagne. Whatever the reason, we do have alternatives.

Sure, there are sodas/colas/soft drinks, fruit ades, cocoa, coffee, herbal infusions, milk, and the most popular beverage on the planet (water). Each has its issues, benefits and drawbacks. Sodas have caffeine and carbonation. Fruit ades have a fairly high sugar (fructose) content. Cocoa is also sugary and has possibly more caffeine than you might want. Coffee, especially those latté style drinks, have high caffeine, sugar, and fat content (let’s not even talk about espresso with its super-duper lode of caffeine).

Tea, however, has the amazing ability to stimulate and calm, and the better teas have a complexity of flavors not found in any of those other beverages. Darjeeling teas go a step beyond this to bring a taste to your teacup akin to the grape-y-ness of champagne with neither the nose tickling bubbles nor the alcohol that can leave you hung over the next morning and wondering what you did last night after the clock struck midnight.

Just as with champagne, you can serve a nondescript Darjeeling tea or “go for the good stuff,” like these:

  • Gopaldhara Autumnal Darjeeling — Rare chinary autumnal coppery leaves that have been artfully oxidized and fired so that they create chestnut notes and a fruity profile. Grown at over 2,500 meters above sea level. A light muscatel character, a pleasant smoothness, and an overall balance.
  • Darjeeling White Tips White Tea loose leaf — Very rare tea from Darjeeling made entirely from hand-selected leaves and steeping to a muscatel taste with a white wine taste “impression.”
  • Margarets Estate tea loose leaf — A 2nd flush (Summer) Darjeeling that is grown at 6800 feet above sea level and steeps up a liquid with a noticeable ‘Muscatel’ character and a hint of currant, with a quasi-wine-like taste.
  • Teas from Mim, and Soom Estates — 1st (Spring) and 2nd (Summer) flush Darjeelings grown at fairly high elevations. Each has that distinctive Muscatel flavor characteristic and a hint of currant with a round feel.

With choices like these, who needs champagne? Just steep up a potful shortly before midnight, pour into your fine china cups, and you’ll be ready to raise them in a toast when that ball drops. Of course, you could also serve it chilled and pour it into champagne or wine glasses. The choice is yours. Either way, I wish you a great Darjeeling New Year!

Make sure to stop by A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!

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