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What Is Darjeeling Tea?

Darjeeling is widely regarded as the champagne of teas, and with good reason. This rich tea is limited in availability and has a mossy, sweet flavor from its growing conditions that you can’t find in any other tea worldwide.

Darjeeling tea is a type of high-quality black tea grown in a particular region of India known as Darjeeling. Darjeeling gets its unique flavor from its growing conditions and processing practices. Darjeeling tea is expensive because the production of this tea is so limited and specialized.

Darjeeling tea might be pricey or hard to find compared to other types of tea, but it offers a singular culinary experience you won’t get with any other tea variety. Keep reading to learn more about the origins of Darjeeling tea and why it’s so special.

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darjeeling tea region

Where Is Darjeeling Tea From?

Darjeeling comes from the state of West Bengal in India, and that’s the only place where this tea is produced legally

The reason is that the Darjeeling Tea Association and the government of West Bengal have strict regulations that protect Darjeeling’s brand value in much the same way that certain types of olive oil are protected in Italy. In agriculture, this kind of restriction is known as a protected geographical indication, or PGI.

Thanks to international trade, Darjeeling can now be found in markets all over the globe. However, any authentic Darjeeling tea will only be a tea directly imported from the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of West Bengal, India.

How Many Tea Gardens Produce Darjeeling Tea?

Because the reputation of Darjeeling tea is so protected, only a few tea estates in the entire Indian subcontinent are allowed to produce it and label it as Darjeeling tea. Only 87 tea estates in all of India are registered producers of Darjeeling tea. 

What Kind of Tea is Darjeeling Tea? 

Unlike Assam tea, a Indian native tea, Darjeeling tea is produced from Chinese tea strains. Most Darjeeling tea is produced and processed as black tea, but some Darjeeling tea estates also produce oolong, white, and green tea.

What Is So Special About Darjeeling Tea?

To someone unfamiliar with tea commerce, it might seem odd that tea from a specific region could be regarded as more valuable than other tea varieties. Several factors set Darjeeling tea apart from its competitors and put it in a league of its own. Here are some of the traits that make Darjeeling so special:

●   Complicated flavor: Darjeeling tea has a complicated flavor that comes from a combination of the Chinese tea strains that are cultivated and the Indian terroir, or microclimate and growing conditions, that the tea plants are subjected to. This gives Darjeeling tea a flavor that can’t be replicated in any other tea on Earth.

●   Varied flavor: Depending on what time of year Darjeeling is harvested, it will have a very different flavor. Darjeeling is harvested in four flushes throughout the year, each with their own unique flavor profile.

●   Mild flavor: Compared to other black tea varieties, Darjeeling tea has a particularly mild astringency. This lack of astringency makes Darjeeling tea a more smooth and mellow drink than other types. 

The depth of flavor in Darjeeling tea compared to other tea varieties is difficult to describe since the flavors are so complex and change depending on the flush. It’s best to try Darjeeling yourself to see how it squares up against other blends.

darjeeling tea plantation

Why Is Darjeeling Tea So Expensive? 

If you check an online market to pick up some Darjeeling tea, you might notice that this tea variety is somewhat more expensive to purchase than some other blends. There are a few different reasons for this. Here’s why you’ll have to pay more for Darjeeling than other tea types:

●   Unique flavor profile: Since you can’t find another type of tea that has quite the same aroma and flavor of Darjeeling, consumers are forced to pay a premium for it.

●   High quality: Darjeeling is widely considered one of the best teas in the world. There’s a high demand for Darjeeling produced each year, which drives the prices up.

●   Political unrest: Darjeeling tea is grown in a province of India where there have recently been separatist conflicts that delay tea production and cause crop losses. (Source: BBC) This civil unrest can drive the rest of the remaining Darjeeling stock higher since there is even less to go around than usual.

The main reason that Darjeeling tea is so expensive is because it is one of the rarest teas you’re likely to try. This makes almost any tea time with Darjeeling a celebratory experience even if you’re lucky enough to have your own stash.

Darjeeling Tea is a Rare Treat

Depending on the time of year, high-quality Darjeeling tea can be hard to find, but online markets make it easier to get ahold of. If you make a point to give this famous Indian tea a go, you might be surprised at how much you love it!

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