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When the finest soil meets the highest slopes and befriends the most poetic weather, it produces Darjeeling tea. One of the most exotic and aromatic brews to have ever been cultivated, Darjeeling tea is more than just tea; it’s a legacy.
The history of Darjeeling tea is indeed a fascinating one. Seeds of Camellia sinensis were brought to Darjeeling in 1841. The plants, especially their leaves with their floral aroma and tangy taste, caught the fancy of the British. It was born out of this colonial tryst, and hence it’s not surprising that the European countries still crave this particular brew.
Amber-colored with an aroma uniquely muscatel, a cup of Darjeeling tea is a favorite of the universe coming together. Cultivated at an altitude of 7000 feet above sea level with slopes of the hills facing northwards, the tender leaves are plucked on full moon nights. Makaibari Tea Estate holds the distinction of producing the most coveted blends amongst Darjeeling teas, the Silver Tips Imperial Tea. The correct soil content, rainfall, sunshine, and altitude that is all that are needed to create this magical potion. It is because of this that Darjeeling tea cannot be replicated. Tea connoisseur or not, a sip of this elixir is worth tantalizing your taste buds.
Not only is a sublimely balanced climatic condition needed to cultivate Darjeeling tea, but the processing is exceedingly important. Unlike any other tea, this tea is to date processed the “orthodox way.” Leaves are plucked mostly by women to ensure that the leaves are not “injured.” It takes about 20000 tender shoots to be plucked to make 2 pounds of your favorite brew. Thereafter, the leaves are withered, whereby the moisture is removed from them. It is after rolling and oxidation that sorting of the leaves is done before packaging them. It is this labor-intensive and time-consuming effort that gives this tea its exquisite taste.
Firstly, what makes a particular tea? Teas cultivated in estates like Sadar subdivision, Kurseong subdivision, and Siliguri subdivision; and certified by the Tea Board Of India can be sold as Darjeeling tea. This is akin to the certification of cheese, wine, and champagne in Europe.
Darjeeling black tea is typically harvested between spring and fall. The first flush gives a mild body and a floral aroma to the tea. The second flush has the signature amber color with the muscatel flavor. Darjeeling white tea comes with a tinge of sweetness. It has a delectable floral aroma that makes it unique. Darjeeling green tea, on the other hand, is a health and immunity booster. Due to the high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, this is a wonderful health drink.
Meanwhile, Darjeeling oolong tea brews into a golden hue and has a distinct muscatel flavor similar to black tea. It is lighter than other oolong teas. These teas are cultivated using special Chinese tea bushes and make one of the most exquisite teas the world over.
What happened to be a stroke of luck when the plants sprouted in 1841 changed the sleepy hill station overnight to this hub of the world’s best-known destination for tea. Tea estates have now spread over 19000 hectares and run across this entire Himalayan valley. Darjeeling accounts for 25% of India’s tea exports, with the costliest blend placed at a staggering $1850 per kilogram. Darjeeling tea is India’s legacy to the world, where quality is preferred over quantity. India prides itself in a cup of Darjeeling tea. Tourism to this sleepy hamlet has grown on a huge scale to witness this amazing tale of tea being served in the crisp mornings in the Himalayan town.
Being a tea that is only grown in one small town globally, preparation of the tea is an art in itself. The sophisticated flavor of this tea is extracted when there are no impurities. Hence, the vessels to the water that is used all need to be perfect. Bring the water to a boil, let the leaves steep for three to five minutes. Tea connoisseurs do not add milk or sugar to their cups, but this is a fragile tradition. Add sugar and milk as you wish before sipping in the aroma of the hills that wafts in with every sip.
Do indulge in the pleasure of heaven that is granted to only a few. Aficionados or not, a sip of tea from the hills of Darjeeling deserves to be sipped at least once in your lifetime.
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