6 Essentials for a Darjeeling Tea Lover: A Beginner’s Guide to Darjeeling Tea
1. The Holy Trini-tea
A Darjeeling tea lover knows that their favourite beverage can only be sourced from the Darjeeling terroir of West Bengal, India.
Darjeeling Tea leaves mainly grow when (a) Chinese tea genetics or Camellia sinensis meets (b) the loamy soil of Darjeeling, meets (c) the crisp air of the Himalayan altitude.
These three conditions are of primal importance when it comes to the source of premium Darjeeling tea leaves.
On point: Due to its uniqueness, global demand, and sovereign identity, Darjeeling plantations get production under the Geographical Indication (GI) trademark, found on the packaging of every authentic Darjeeling tea selling company.
They are registered under this act to uphold and protect the authenticity of tea production.
2. Every Blade Tells a Story: Types of Darjeeling Tea
Much like a wine sommelier, a tea sommelier always know their tea leaves!
To be able to differentiate tea leaves based on their sizes, grades, colour, and overall appearance, is undoubtedly a refined set of skills to possess!
Even for a non-tea drinker, these hacks help to visually distinguish the variants of Darjeeling flushes – from the 3 main harvest seasons.
(in photo: Manjushree Darjeeling First Flush )
(a) Darjeeling First Flush or the Spring flush tea leaves are the sizes of baby shoots that grow light green in colour. They are delicate, and dewy and are harvested between the months of April and early May. Packed with fresh flavours of a spring onset, they have also been poetically named the ‘Lover’s Blush’.
(in photo: Manjushree Darjeeling Second Flush Tea )
(b) The Summer flush, or the Darjeeling Second Flush tea leaves, are harvested within the next gap of two weeks. Yet there is a distinct growth in their size and appearance. The tea leaves are bigger, and darker, with light-coloured edges, almost silvery. The best second flush tea leaves get harvested between the summer months of May and June.
(in photo: Manjushree Darjeeling Autumnal Tea )
(c) The best Darjeeling Autumnal Tea leaves are produced from the harvest during October and November. The tea leaves are a mature, light autumn brown colour, very copper-like. It has the most distinguished appearance amongst the rest of the tea flushes.
There are several other Darjeeling tea variants - they are the oxidized variants of the three main Darjeeling tea flushes.
3. Steeping: Time taken to make Darjeeling Tea
The art of steeping tea is a preserved practice for Darjeeling tea lovers and connoisseurs.
A common mistake is adding delicate tea leaves to a boiling pot of water. In fact, it is the reverse that is recommended by chefs and tea experts from across the world, including masters of tea ceremonies.
Adding boiling water to the Darjeeling tea leaves, resists the delicate flavours from burning too quickly, and instead slowly releases them to transform into a warm brew of Darjeeling finesse.
The reason is, the warmth of a preheated vessel prepares the tea leaves, whilst the added hot water slowly absorbs the full spectrum of delicate, fruity flavours.
Steeping time: 3 to 5 mins (without milk, as per your taste)
Preparation time: 8-9 mins
4. The Right Hue of Your Brew: The colour of Darjeeling Tea
When perfectly steeped, Darjeeling tea leaves essentially identify with a distinct colour of their own. The infusion turns out to be a fabled, sparkling copper-gold brew.
Although, several variants of Darjeeling tea harvested throughout the year steep within a range of light to dark hues of golden copper and brown.
This difference is based on:
- Age of the Tea plant – some of our Darjeeling tea estate gardens house tea plants that are centuries old, while some are merely years mature.
- Oxidation levels of the Darjeeling tea leaf variant
- Blending of the teas depend on the tea blending company and their techniques
Only natural Darjeeling tea leaves can brew into a colour that is unique to a premium flush.
5. Hitting the right notes: How Darjeeling tea tastes and smells
As one of the most sophisticated harvests of the Indian terrain in terms of its delicate yet assertive, and unique flavour, Darjeeling tea ranges from sweet to muscatel, fruity, and nutty top notes and after tastes.
Without the fleeting range of Indian seasons that synthesize with the Darjeeling tea gardens, it is impossible to attain such a vast spectrum of flavours.
With the ascendance of the seasons, the flushes too undergo a change in flavours. First flushes assimilate delicate robustness of winter hibernation, whilst the seasonal end infusions carry bolder flavours and more antioxidants.
Darjeeling teas are mainly black teas with more sophisticated notes – and Darjeeling tea lovers know why their favourite brew is called the ‘Champagne of Teas’ – it ages better with every season!
6. Pairing Darjeeling Tea with Food
Our cafe The Tea Place By Manjushree has the ultimate food pairing menu for our Darjeeling Tea collection.
Living upto being the 'Champagne of Teas', our tea is the most versatile in terms of its taste profiles and can be paired with almost any appetiser, proteins, and of course, desserts!
(picture courtesy: @theteaplace_bymanjushree )
Top (left to right): Classic Caesar Salad, BBQ Chicken Wings, Chicken Carbonara w. Herb Rice, Chef's Special salad & Strawberry Cheesecake.
Bottom (left to right): Seabass en Papilotte, Classic Italian Tiramisu, Fish N' Chips (Bhetki Fillets), Gambas Ala Ajilo & Prawn Newburg.
From Tiramisu to cheesecakes and even Creme Brulees, the creamier the desserts, the better the pairing for any astringent aftertaste from the tea!
Other items that pair well from our food menu: Creamy Mushrooms on Toast, Finger Sandwiches, Roasted Smoky Chicken, Japanese Tuna Fish Cake
Our Darjeeling tea collection that have been paired with the above food items:
You can now Shop our premium collection of Darjeeling Tea online: Manjushree Tea Store