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The Mesmerizing Story of Darjeeling Tea

When we speak about Darjeeling, the next thing that comes to our mind is Darjeeling tea. How the tea industry originated in Darjeeling and the types of tea cultivated in the area. The Darjeeling tea industry will keep on touching the mark in the world and will continue to give the world its premium tea.

Chintu Das

Darjeeling with its beautiful ridges, fabulous weather and its antiquity is one of the best places to visit, located in the eastern part of India. However, keeping everything aside, it is “Darjeeling tea” which made the place famous to the world. Darjeeling tea is the best in the world and is considered as the crown jewel among all the tea varieties available in the world market. The tea industry is several centuries old and has a remarkable story of its own.

History of tea industry:

Tea was introduced in Darjeeling by the Britishers in the early 1840’s, imported originally from China. As the climate of Darjeeling was found favourable for tea plantation, the Britishers started cultivating tea on an experimental basis. The results were nothing like the Chinese counterparts as well as its nearby parts from Assam. The cultivated tea leaves developed a different taste, and had an identity of their own. After the successful try, full fledged development started taking place and the Darjeeling Tea industry came to life in the late 1850’s.

The tea industry flourished through the years and by the end of 1865, Darjeeling had around 40 tea gardens with the production value of around 20,000 kilos of tea per year. In the following 5 years, the tea garden numbers nearly doubled to around 60 with an output value of nearly 70,000 kilos of tea per annum.

By the start of the twentieth century, the number of gardens increased to around 150 covering a total land area of around 18,500 hectares. Following the independence of India in 1947, nearly all the tea gardens were sold off to Indian men before the Britishers returned back to their home country. Currently there are around 90 tea gardens operating in Darjeeling with the tea production crossing over 9 to 10 million kilos per year.

Types of teas found in Darjeeling:

Darjeeling produces mainly 4 types of tea namely, black tea, green tea, white tea and oolong tea. The processed tea ranges from nominally possessed green tea to thickly possessed black tea. The intensity of elevation of the land upon which cultivation is done also plays a major role in determining the type of the tea.

Another major difference in the zest and essence of the tea comes due to the season of cultivation. These seasons or harvesting periods are also called “flush. There are a total of 6 harvesting periods in a year and the harvest received from each period is somewhat different from each other.

The type of tea bushes namely Chinary (native Chinese breed) and Clonal (cross between Chinary and Assamese breed found in Assam) used in the cultivation also determines the type.

Apart from the major types of tea, few other sub-types are also found in Darjeeling such as “muscatel “which is cultivated in the summer and the taste of these tea leaves has a very unique taste to it.

Future of Darjeeling Tea:

Looking at the current figures surely makes it clear that Darjeeling still has a long road to follow in the future global tea market. Darjeeling will continue to produce high quality tea for the world; be it black, green, white or oolong. The people of Darjeeling use an orthodox handling method in order to preserve the fragile character that is regularly related to Darjeeling tea, represented by its colour, re- fineness and astringency. Darjeeling tea will continue to yield soaring high prices in the tea auctions.

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