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, which in turn makes 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 for a way to end China’s monopoly in the tea industry. As an experiment, some tea seeds brought in from China were planted in a Darjeeling estate located 7000 feet above sea level. The experiment was a success beyond anything they’d imagined. The tea developed its own distinct identity, and the rest was history.
Read on to find our list of 10 best Darjeeling teas to buy from the most popular and reliable tea vendors online.
But first, make sure you know your teas.
Darjeeling tea tips
You need to know a thing or two about your loose leaf Darjeeling tea in order to savor it best. Most of all, you need to know about the different ‘flushes’ or harvest seasons as the tea develops very different characteristics depending on when the leaves are plucked. You also need to watch out for ‘fake’ Darjeelings that are nowhere close to the real thing. When shopping for the best Darjeeling tea, look for the following terms in the descriptions:
First flush Darjeeling vs. second flush
There are two main tea harvest seasons in India. 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 a base 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 tea gardens of Darjeeling district and produced according to its standards. There are 87 tea gardens (estates) in the region. Each estate produces teas with their 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 black tea and other varieties
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 the green, oolong, and white teas.
Darjeelings: tasting notes in reviews
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 best Darjeeling tea online?
Best loose leaf teas are harvested, processed, packed and shipped garden-fresh straight from tea estates. When your Darjeeling 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
Daily Darjeeling Black Tea from Himalayas
Emerald Darjeeling Green Tea (Arya)
Darjeeling T.G.F.O.P. Tea Organic
Castleton Exotic Summer Muscatel Black Tea
Darjeeling, 20 Tea Sachets
- Fine Teas
- Master Tea Blender
- Classic Collection