What is Darjeeling Tea?
It isn’t easy to win the title of the “champagne of teas,” but Darjeeling tea does it in style. You’ll experience its uniqueness in the very first sip. No other tea offers this unique ‘muscatel’ flavor – an enchanting balance of brisk floral notes and a honeyed, almost buttery aftertaste. One of the most sought-after teas in the world, Darjeeling tea comes from the Darjeeling district in West Bengal, India. Steep Himalayan slopes with slightly acidic soil, along with generous doses of both cloud cover and sunshine, give the tea leaves their distinctive aroma and taste. They also make the tea plants slow to grow, making all Darjeelings rare and expensive.
History of Darjeeling tea: smuggled goodness
Loose-leaf Darjeeling is by far the most famous Indian tea. It comes from a small-leaved variant of the Camellia Sinensis plant that is actually native to China. In the mid-19th century, the British were looking to end China’s monopoly in the tea industry. Some tea seeds brought in from China were planted in a Darjeeling estate located 7000 feet above sea level as an experiment. The experiment was a success beyond anything they’d imagined. The tea developed its own distinct identity, and the rest was history.
But first, make sure you know your teas.
How to choose the best Darjeeling tea
There are several contributing factors that determine the final flavor of any particular Darjeeling tea:
- harvesting season or ‘flush’
- plantation location
- method of processing and the resulting tea type (color)
So, when shopping for the best Darjeeling tea, pay attention to the following terms in the descriptions:
‘flushes’ or harvest seasons in Darjeeling
There are two main tea harvest seasons in India; the tea develops very different characteristics depending on when the leaves are plucked.
The first flush is harvested in spring. First flush Darjeeling tea is very light in color and has a gentle aroma and mild astringency.
The second flush is harvested in summer and produces an amber, full-bodied, muscatel-flavored tea. Besides these, there are monsoon and autumn Darjeelings that are harvested during the rainy seasons. These tend to be heavily oxidized, have a fuller body, and are often used as bases for chai and other flavored teas.
The name ‘Darjeeling’ is legally protected. For a tea to be labeled ‘Darjeeling,’ it has to be grown in one of the Darjeeling district’s tea gardens and produced according to its standards. There are 87 tea gardens (estates) in the region. Each estate produces teas with its own character, taste, and aroma. The best loose leaf Darjeelings are processed, packed, and shipped directly from the source to preserve their freshness and authenticity.
Darjeeling tea types
Traditionally, Darjeeling plantations have produced some of the best black teas available on the market. Today, however, tea from this region is also available in green, oolong, and white teas.
What does Darjeeling tea taste like?
Every Darjeeling tea estate will treat you to a unique flavor profile. But generally speaking, all Darjeelings will be bright and aromatic and will offer a distinctive floral flavor called ‘muscatel.’
This kind of Indian tea is very different from robust Assam or Nilgiri teas.
Classic black Darjeeling teas have a “slightly vegetal aroma with a hint of wet wood.” Their flavor is “splendidly complex,” “fruity and delightful without being astringent,” and sometimes carrying hints of “cedar, cashew, and almonds.”
Darjeeling green teas tend to be “fresh and flowery,” their “vegetal notes laced with complex floral flavors.”
A cup of spring Darjeeling oolong tea will be “delicate with a light and lovely aroma.” Most will have a “classic Darjeeling first flush fragrance,” along with a “citrusy taste” and “full mouthfeel.”
Where to buy the best Darjeeling tea online?
We feature only the most reliable tea vendors and earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
Vahdam Teas is one of the best sources to find quality Darjeeling tea online. Here’s why.
Best loose leaf teas are harvested, processed, packed, and shipped garden-fresh straight from tea estates. When your tea originates in a land far, far away, you need a reliable source to ship it to you. Vahdam Teas does just that. This brand specializes in making fresh, genuine, and handpicked Indian teas available to purchase online for tea drinkers in the US and Europe.
Vahdam Teas Online Store
The quality of their products is superb, shipping is fast and customer service is excellent, no wonder that Vahdam Teas have been featured inOprah's Favorite. All teas are cleaned, processed and packed packed directly at the source and then air shipped to local fulfillment center in USA. Orders shipped by Fedex for quick delivery. Use our exclusive coupon MADTEA15 for a 15% discount storewide (2 uses per user).
Here are more options to choose from:
White tea from the Darjeeling region of India. A rare treat from the Rohini estate, nestled along the picturesque slopes of the Himalayas. Similar in appearance to the White Peony tea of China, the Darjeeling version is equally sublime. This early spring tea offers young leaves and delicate unopened buds. Dry leaf aroma is crisp with hints of fruit and floral. The cup offers hypnotic honeysuckle and apricot blossom notes.
Castleton Exotic Summer Muscatel Black Tea
A stellar Darjeeling cup that is aromatic with medium strength marked with notes of peaches and black grapes. This iconic tea estate is where it all started, the creation of the first Muscatel. And decades later, the art is perfected and what it offers is phenomenal. Take in the medium body of this exceptional cup that is highly aromatic and flavorful. Fresh and uplifting notes of peaches mingled with flavors of black grapes and prunes come over from the start and stay on throughout. Delicious hints of cedar and white almonds round up the cup giving it a lively character and depth. Nuanced notes of stone fruits make up the aftertaste elevating the true Muscatel experience.
Emerald Darjeeling Green Tea Loose Leaf
A delectably fresh green tea from high elevation plantations of Darjeeling 100% Pure Darjeeling Green Teas That Are Full Of Natural Goodness And Picked At Peak Season This brew offers a splendid floral aroma Robust notes of grilled greens and clean vegetal flavor profile All Vahdam Teas are vacuum packaged for preserved freshness and aroma Courtesy of the popular Arya tea estate in the blissful region of Darjeeling, this green tea stands above the rest with its remarkably clean flavour profile. One of the best summer green teas of the region with clean, vegetal flavours. The beautiful tightly-rolled leaves give a whiff of forest floor and fresh nuts. Unlike other green teas, this tea is not at all edgy but has a smooth liquor which feels ample in the mouth, has a alluring umami texture, and an invigorating floral aroma. Robust notes of grilled greens and vegetal undertones mark the bright liquor.
Daily Darjeeling Black Tea from Himalayas
Premium Darjeeling Tea Second Flush with crisp, berry-like nuances A full-bodied black tea loose leaf that has signature Darjeeling second-flush attributes of wood and dried fruit Our premium loose-leaf teas can be brewed both hot and cold Tea is vacuum packaged for preserved freshness and aroma An enthralling cup of summer black tea from the fascinating region of Darjeeling. This is a light, second-flush black tea with crisp, berry-like nuances that shall captivate you from the first sip! The brownish-black leaves are short, tightly-rolled, and interspersed with some green flakes. The liquor is mellow and unimposing, with notes of date palm and fermented barley that are discernible but fade away quickly. Indulge in a brisk and flavourful cup of tea that has signature Darjeeling second-flush attributes of wood and dried fruit.
Darjeeling T.G.F.O.P. Tea Organic
This Organic Darjeeling Tea grows on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, which is located on India's northern border. T.G.F.O.P. standards are considered one of the fanciest of Darjeeling teas. It has a delicate floral aroma and a mildly fruity flavor, with a slight astringent nip. It really has a wonderful grounding aftertaste, with a delicious and indescribable flavor of its own.
Calming, soothing, sweet. Say hello to the champagne of teas, our organic Darjeeling tea. This loose leaf Indian Darjeeling tea steeps a pink, light amber color with fresh floral and apple-like flavor notes.
Darjeeling, 20 Tea Sachets
The Queen of Indian teas, another great British legacy tea. Light, bright and aromatic tea .
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Isabelle is a freelance writer, self-taught tea nerd, and tea blending enthusiast. She is a herbalist with a strong interest in Ayurveda. Each year Isabelle travels extensively, returning with tea samples from around the world. She is a big fan of handmade teaware and Japanese green teas.