Darjeeling tea, tea from the Darjeeling region in West Bengal, India, has traditionally been prized above all other black teas, especially in the United Kingdom and the countries comprising the former British Empire. When properly brewed it yields a thin-bodied, light-colored liquor with a floral aroma. The flavor also displays a tinge of astringent tannic characteristics, and a musky spiciness often referred to by tea connoisseurs as "muscatel." A sweet cooling aftertaste should be felt in the mouth. Although Darjeeling black teas are marketed commercially as "black tea", almost all of them have incomplete oxidation (<90%) and thus these teas are technically more Oolong than black.
Unlike most Indian tea, Darjeeling is normally made from the small-leaved Chinese variety of Camellia sinensis, C. sinensis sinensis, not the large-leaved Assam plant (C. sinensis assamica). Traditionally Darjeeling tea is made as black tea; however, Darjeeling oolong and green teas are becoming more commonly produced and easier to find, and a growing number of estates are also producing white teas.
Adulteration and falsification are serious problems in the global tea trade; the amount of tea sold as Darjeeling worldwide every year exceeds 40,000 tonnes, while the annual tea production of Darjeeling itself is estimated at only 10,000 tonnes, including local consumption. To combat this situation, the Tea Board of India administers the Darjeeling certification mark and logo. Protection of this tea designation is similar in scope to the protected designation of origin used by the EU for many European cheeses.
Darjeeling tea cannot be grown or manufactured anywhere else in the world, similar to Champagne in that region of France.
1st Flush is harvested in mid-March following spring rains, and has a gentle, very light color, aroma, and mild astringency.
In Between is harvested between the two "flush" periods.
2nd Flush is harvested in June and produces an amber, full bodied, muscatel-flavored cup.
Monsoon or Rains tea is harvested in the monsoon (or rainy season) between 2nd Flush and Autumnal, is less withered, consequently more oxidized, and usually sold at lower prices. It is rarely exported, and often used in Masala chai.
Autumnal Flush is harvested in the autumn after the rainy season, and has somewhat less delicate flavour and less spicy tones, but fuller body and darker colour.