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Darjeeling Tea

Darjeeling Tea | Imperial Teas

Surrounded by the majesty of the Himalaya's famous mountains, where earth meets heaven, in the lush valleys at altitudes up to 2159 metres, dotted with temples where prayers are written, amidst breathtaking beauty and mystery, lies the land of Darjeeling. In the native language of Lepcha this is known as the 'Land of the Thunderbolt' and the prestigious teas grown here are rightly considered among the world's best.

Some would say they are a tea without equal. At their best it would be hard to disagree. They are grown in a small area made up of eighty gardens in the foothills of the Himalayas. There are seven valleys where tea is grown, named East Darjeeling or Golden Valley, West Darjeeling, Mirik, Teesta, Rungbong and North and South Kurseong which means Land of White Orchids. Often referred to as the 'Champagne of Tea', there are a number of factors contributing to its quality. The altitude of up to 8000ft, the perfect balance of sun and rain, rich, well drained soil, fragrant air and in the best types the use of the original slow growing chinese tea bushes.

This hardy, evergreen shrub takes four to six years to mature and will yield fine, flavoursome tea for well over 100 years with good care. This is natures contribution, unique to Darjeeling's Seven Valleys but without the considerable nurture and manufacturing skills used at the best plantations the tea would not become complete. Plucking begins in March and closes by late November. Each tea bush in the estate is plucked every 4 to 7 days depending on the season. A hectare of garden yields around 500kgs of dry tea with each bush yielding only 100 grams of made tea in a year. It takes over 20,000 individually hand picked shoots to make a kilogram of tea. It is little wonder that Darjeeling is held in such high esteem, having gifted the world with the finest teas, flavoured by nature and for over 100 years nurtured with uncommon skill and excellence.

The three most important crops of Darjeeling are known as First Flush or 'Spring' teas, picked in March and April, Second Flush or 'Summer' teas, picked mid June to mid July and Autumnal, picked in November. The period between these peak times are considered main crop but of little interest in terms of quality. Darjeeling tea leaves are processed in the traditional "Orthodox" way. The inherent sensitive nature of the finely plucked, green leaf responds best to gentle treatment. Although differing leaf varieties require intricate variations in processing, the stages undergone are uniform. Once the leaf reaches the factory, it is withered. The object is to evaporate moisture from the leaf slowly over a period of 14 to 16 hours. The leaf becomes limp so as to withstand twisting and rolling under pressure without crumbling. Liquor characteristics also begin to develop following physical and chemical changes within the leaf structure.

The green leaves are segregated according to type and spread evenly on wire mesh screens fitted over specially designed troughs which resemble very long wooden boxes. Each trough is an air chamber which enables fresh dry air to be passed in a regulated manner through the green leaves till the desired "wither" is achieved. 65% of the water content is removed from the leaf at this stage. The withered leaf is then removed from the trough and rolled under pressure, resulting in release of natural juices that promote oxidation and pigmentation.The leaf is thinly spread in a cool, well ventilated room to slowly ferment. This is the stage in which the unique flavour of Darjeeling Tea develops over two to four hours. The experienced tea maker judges the extent of quality development from the fragrance progressively expressed by the leaf at regular intervals. Once the fermentation is done, the rolled leaf is taken for drying (firing) to arrest further fermentation and to remove almost all the remaining water content from the leaf. The dried tea is crisp and finally graded and packed according to size and quality. For further information see the next categories for each of these types.

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  1. Darjeeling Pussimbing Supreme 'Summer Haze'

    Darjeeling Summer Haze

    A late summer tea from the Badamtam garden. It has a mellow, smooth, sweet tasting liquor that is full in the mouth and has a strong body. It has a typical nutty character found in second flush Darjeeling. Learn More
    From £7.00

    Earn 7 loyalty points.

  2. Darjeeling Liza Hill Silver Blossom

    Darjeeling Liza Hill Silver Blossom

    Silver Blossom is a speciality of the Liza Hill division of the Risheehat garden. It is a smooth, silky tea with great green spring freshness. It is light in colour but offers up a flavoursome, delicate flowery tea in both taste and aroma. Learn More
    From £7.00

    Earn 7 loyalty points.

  3. Darjeeling Balasun Classic

    Darjeeling Balasun Wild River

    Balasun is located in the North Kurseong Valley. A good leaf appearance with silvery tips yielding a bright amber cup which is highly aromatic with a flowery bouquet. The cup has a sparkling quality and spicy, muscatel notes. Learn More
    From £8.00

    Earn 8 loyalty points.

  4. arjeeling Puttabong Eagle's Hide Muscatel

    Darjeeling Eagle's Hide

    With all the complexity of the finest second flush character and an almost rose scented quality to the prominent spicy flavour, it is a tea to be relished. The leaves have a delightful appearance and show the care taken in production. These bushes grow at over 6000ft and the cold to temperate climate, shifting between fog and sunshine reduces the growing speed of the tea plants to guarantee an extremely high quality tea. Learn More
    From £8.00

    Earn 8 loyalty points.

  5. Darjeeling Muscatel Dream

    Darjeeling Muscatel Dream

    The complex flavour runs the range from honey to soft fruits to rose and camellia and the rich, nectar-like 'Muscatel' character so sought after in Darjeeling teas from the summer crop. This is from the Mim garden and is one of the top 'muscatel' teas of the year. Learn More

    Earn 11 loyalty points.

  6. Darjeeling Summer Rose

    Darjeeling Summer Rose

    Simply the best second flush tea of the year. A 'muscatel' tea to rival some of Taiwan's famous 'Oriental Beauty' teas. It has such a complex, astounding, rich, ripe fragrance that I'm afraid I cannot describe well enough to do it justice but I have noticed nuances of honey, vanilla, peach, orange, musk rose, nectarine, quince, lichee among many others. Phuguri grows the rare, but best clonal tea bush variety known as AV2. This clone produces the best tasting Darjeeling but will only grow in a small number of places there. Learn More

    Earn 21 loyalty points.

  7. Darjeeling Singbulli Silk

    Darjeeling Singbulli Silk

    This is the one of the best First Flush teas of the season, particularly in the Chinese leaf category. It was from an early invoice of the year and not even knowing what may have come later in the season, I knew I was unlikely to taste anything better. As good, perhaps, but not better. As things turned out I was right, so I am glad I made the early commitment to buy it! It is a beautifully prepared leaf with lots of silvery, silky buds in the mix. The infusion is a lovely, bright yellow with a fresh aroma. The flavour and aroma is a complex one that carries hints of herbal and flowery characteristics. Learn More
    From £9.00

    Earn 9 loyalty points.

  8. Darjeeling Risheehat Heavenly Muscatel

    Darjeeling Risheehat Heavenly Muscatel

    Elderflower, roses, tangerine, mandarin...just a few of the flavours and fragrances picked out by our discerning customers in this tantalising tea. Naturally, it is defined by its 'Muscatel' character but I think it is one of the few teas that is intriguingly different every time that you brew it. Its strength is balanced by its light, flowery taste. Learn More
    From £9.00

    Earn 9 loyalty points.

  9. Darjeeling Jungpana Muscatel

    Darjeeling Leopard's Valley Muscatel

    This rich liquoring infusion yields the classic 'muscatel' character with hints of almond or walnut depending on infusion time. The aroma has hints of peach and floral notes. All this and with a delightful honey finish. This blends the finest teas from Mim and Margaret's Hope gardens. Learn More

    Earn 12 loyalty points.

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