India Darjeeling Black Tea

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The Darjeeling region of India is located in a spectacular mountain setting in the Indian Himalaya. This region was settled by the British as a hill-station and spa in the 1800’s because of its ‘healthy air.’ By the mid 1800’s the English began to cultivate tea in the hills and valleys throughout the Darjeeling region, and English tea drinkers developed a passion for the taste of this tea.

Today Darjeeling tea is known as the ‘Champagne of Tea’, reflecting its overall style and quality, and it has loyal tea drinking followers worldwide. Among India’s diverse collection of fine teas it is known as ‘ the exotic one.’ It is beloved for its clarity of taste, invigorating aroma and smooth, crisp flavor. But Darjeeling teas vary quite a bit in style and flavor depending on the season in which they are plucked. Tea lovers should be familiar with a few elements of Darjeeling tea manufacture so that they can understand what they are purchasing and then determine what they like.

At Tea Trekker we offer several seasonal harvests from Darjeeling:

1st Flush Darjeeling (spring-plucked tea):
spicy, pleasantly astringent and can sometimes be ‘green’-ish in style (a.k.a. the European/German/Russian style) – we note this when it applies

2nd Flush Darjeeling (late spring/early summer-plucked tea):
smooth and rich in style with the characteristic ‘muscatel‘ [raisin-y] flavor and aroma.

Autumnal Pluck Darjeeling (early autumn-plucked tea): We are pleased to be able to offer a vintage  ‘Autumnal‘ tea for the first time in many years. Plucked when cool weather returns, this minor crop offers an easy drinking, soft, mellow tea. We tasted many 2019 late-harvest teas in hopes that this year would offer a premium autumnal harvest for all of us to enjoy in 2020, and we sourced a fabulous one from our friends at Giddapahar Tea Estate.

Sourenee 2013 experience07

2020 Darjeeling Notes:
May 18, 2020 
The Darjeeling 1st Flush very early harvest tea is excellent in quality again this year.

Unfortunately we are having difficulty transporting our early purchases, due to the major reduction in flights due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, complicated by the need to use the limited available space for important shipments such as PPE and other basics such as food and medical supplies.

So this year we will need to be patient! The 2020 harvest teas will arrive in due time, and we  will receive them enthusiastically when they do!

Many of the tea gardens with whom we work expected to have excellent tea again this year, and the harvest began almost a month earlier than the historic ‘normal’ time. Many tea harvests in the classic tea-growing areas would have been on a fairly ‘regular’ schedule in 2020. However, the pandemic and its subsequent lock-downs have delayed work in the tea gardens, both plucking and manufacture, in an effort to protect the tea workers. Indications are that it will prove to be a challenging year now, because tea bushes need to be plucked and maintained in the spring, and the reduction in personnel allowed in the gardens has delayed all of that. But we have had challenges in years past and we will work through this one too. I love finding the ‘gems’ in a challenging year, and this one has been no exception.

I found several amazing 1st Flush teas from the early harvests that were very good, so I am delighted with what our offerings will be this season. They will be late-to-arrive though, possibly as late as end-of-June or early-July…heck, they may arrive with the 2nd Flush teas this year, although those are late, so far, and samples are just now beginning to be made available.
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Tea Trekker has almost finished sourcing our 2020 1st Flush Darjeeling teas for this year’s selection. Working with many of our ‘regular’ gardens, we are securing samples to taste and source a diverse assortment of the very late in season but excellent 2nd Flush teas this 2020 season, all representative of the finest teas manufactured in the heart of the officially-registered Darjeeling region.

A TIP:
It is very likely that the gardens from whom we receive tea will change more during the ‘tea year’ (June 2020 to May 2021) than in many years, so if you find a tea that you really like, it might be wise to purchase a modest amount of it while we have it (without hoarding, of course!). We will make every effort to have plenty of tea this year, especially the 2nd Flush teas, which will likely be the best of the season due to the hiatus in plucking during the spring. Only time will tell, but that is part of the fun of tea…

We find it always instructive and enlightening to discover both the similarities and differences in each estate’s teas from one year to the next; and to have the opportunity to decide which to source in order to offer a diverse and yet cohesive selection of tea from each new season’s Darjeeling tea offerings. This search during our tasting and sourcing is what keeps our curiosity piqued, and our senses sharp.

Our offerings again this season will reflect our desire to source from a broad selection of gardens without necessarily committing to a year’s worth of inventory from every estate from which we source tea. (Many gardens will have reduced output too, so there will be some instances in which we simply will not be able to source as much quantity as we might like).

This has been our methodology the last several years and it has been working quite well. We are finding that our clientele is not as interested in locking into a flavor or garden style that they will drink for a year (or a lifetime!) as much as they are interested in choice and having a variety of gardens represented that can be tasted at different times throughout the year. (see TIP, above)

Bob in particular here at Tea Trekker was very happy with the teas that he tasted and sourced from the 2019 tea harvests and is hopeful of a repeat in 2020. In general the teas from the Himalaya are showing a very high quality (and incredible depth of flavor) these days.

lleaf2Black tea steeping instructions

lleaf2Protected Origin Status Granted to Darjeeling Tea

lleaf2New Tea, Rested Tea, and Aged Tea