Darjeeling tea is one of the world’s most celebrated teas. Often referred to as the “Champagne of teas” it is grown in a very specific region under specific harvesting conditions and this produces a flavor like no other. In this guide we’ll look at the benefits of Darjeeling tea while also discussing brewing tips, differences in quality, and more.
What is Darjeeling Tea?
Darjeeling tea is a type of tea that is produced in the Darjeeling region of India. It has a GI Tag, which means that only tea produced in the Darjeeling region is allowed to be called “Darjeeling tea”, thus protecting its status and further cementing its reputation as one of the most famous teas in the world.
Darjeeling tea is often added to tea blends in order to provide a hit of fragrance, while other, cheaper teas add the bulk of the flavor. You can also buy Darjeeling tea on its own, although it tends to be more expensive than many other forms of tea due to the fact that it is produced in smaller quantities and is much more highly sought after.
Darjeeling tea is mainly produced as a black tea, which means it is harvested, rolled and then left to ferment. But it can also be made into a green tea, where the leaves are picked fresh, or a white tea, which is picked when the buds are young.
Where is Darjeeling Tea Grown?
The Darjeeling region is in West Bengal, India. It is a little over 3,000km squared and has a population of just under 2 million. It’s a hilly region that is perfect for the production of tea (it needs dry soil and the drainage provided by hillside growth), which is why tea production is the biggest industry in this district.
Health Benefits of Darjeeling Tea
The benefits of Darjeeling tea are similar to the benefits of black tea, green tea or white tea—depending on which type of Darjeeling tea you drink. The tea plant used to produce Darjeeling tea is a little different to other teas, but the antioxidant content is just as high and the benefits are just as plentiful.
This means that when you consume Darjeeling black tea you can expect to receive a huge boost of antioxidants, as well as minerals like manganese. These antioxidants can help in the fight against cancer as they eliminate free radicals that cause all kinds of damage to your body and eventually lead to many life threatening diseases.
If you’re consuming Darjeeling tea as a green tea then you can also benefit from a huge dose of a specific antioxidant known as EGCG. This is present in a few foods and drinks, but it is at its strongest in green tea and research has shown that it can help with everything from weight loss, to heart health, brain health and much more. There is also less caffeine in green tea, but often more than many tea drinkers seem to think.
White tea also has its own benefits, similar to those of green tea but not as antioxidant or EGCG rich.
Why Does Darjeeling Tea Taste Differently from Other Teas?
The main reason Darjeeling tea tastes differently from other black teas is the variety of plant used. All black, green and white tea is harvested from camellia sinensis, but most of it is grown from a specific large leaf variety of this tea plant while Darjeeling tea is produced from a rare small leaf variety.
The location also plays a role, as does the quality of the land on which it is grown. Tea has been produced in the Darjeeling region for over 150 years, so it has a rich history and a richer soil on which to feed upon.
Why Does Darjeeling Tea Taste Differently Between Brands?
If you’re noticing an inconsistency with regards to the flavor of your Darjeeling tea, it could be the result of a few different things:
- Quality: Darjeeling tea is grown in a very specific region and needs to be grown here in order to be classified as Darjeeling tea. But the quality of the tea can change considerably depending on the brand, the flush and the age. There can be a huge difference here.
- Strength: The strength of your tea can drastically alter the taste. As much as 1 gram more or less and 1 or 2 minutes more or less brewing time could be the difference between something that is perfectly fragrant and delicate and something that is too strong and tastes bitter. If you’re buying teabags from different brands or judging loose tea quantities and times yourself, this is easily done.
- Age: Tea can last for a very long time without expiring, but it has a best before date for a reason. If it passes this date then the tea can lose its flavor and potency, which in turn can have a massive impact on the taste.
If you’re not quite sure what the “flush” of the tea is, see our article on Understanding Darjeeling Flush Numbers.
Tips for Brewing Darjeeling Tea
To get the most out of your Darjeeling tea, make sure you use loose leaf tea or loose tea tea temples. This will require a steeping period of between 3 and 5 minutes, which is longer than you might be used to with a teabag, but it will be well worth the wait.
Here are some other tips for brewing Darjeeling tea:
- Use freshly boiled water drawn from a tap or filter bottle, leaving it to run for a few seconds before you fill the kettle/pan and then boil.
- Add honey for sweetness instead of sugar, or drink unsweetened.
- You can add milk to black Darjeeling tea, but should avoid doing so with green or white Darjeeling tea.
- The perfect temperature for Darjeeling tea is 195 to 205 Fahrenheit, or 90 to 105 Celsius. If you can control it, it’s definitely worth the extra effort to get this right.
- Drink hot or leave to cool and add ice to make an iced Darjeeling tea.
If you are consuming Darjeeling green tea or white tea then you should steep for longer. The lack of tannins means it doesn’t turn as bitter as quickly. You will need to reduce the temperature of the water though, making sure it is not boiling as it overpowers the tea and damages some of the structure, lessening the benefits.