When we say “Darjeeling”, we are referring to so many things about the beautiful place. Frankly, Darjeeling is famous for various reasons and the main reason can be a bit controversial, to say the least. Well, to most, Darjeeling is a popular tourist destination, and to some, it is the different flavors of Darjeeling. Many may even point out the famous temples and monasteries in and around Darjeeling. Or the world heritage toy trains of Darjeeling. In fact, while driving towards Darjeeling, many just look at the view and claim it to be a wonderful hill station. So, we normally miss out on the biggest industry in Darjeeling right before our eyes. Yes, it is the Tea industry which is the biggest industry in Darjeeling. Our main focus in this content is the tea gardens found here. The content is subdivided under the following heads:
- Darjeeling Tea
- Darjeeling Tea Gardens
- Types of Darjeeling Tea
- Top Darjeeling Tea Plantations
A hill station which has become the leading producer of tea in India and the world is Darjeeling. It is a hill station and one of the most important districts in West Bengal. Being a popular tourist destination, Darjeeling has a lot of tourists arriving and leaving almost the whole year-round. But there are still more than a lakh people in Darjeeling, who still call it their home. And they work in various aspects of a working economy to make their hometown a better one. The fact that there are numerous valleys in Darjeeling makes it an appropriate sub-division for tea plantation. Not only the valleys but also the apt climate, the workers and soil texture along with the landscapes. All this and more made Darjeeling the best exporter of Tea in the world.
Darjeeling Tea has often been referred to as the “Champagne of Teas” and coveted as ‘the world’s best tea’. Darjeeling can be thankful to the British for many things and tea is one of them. In 1835, when Darjeeling was passed on to the East India Company, a certain Dr. Campbell brought some tea seeds from Kumaon(Uttarakhand). The tea seeds were of Chinese origin. It was just as a test since he believed the climatic conditions in Darjeeling were compatible with tea plantation. But unlike the other regions growing the same variety, Darjeeling has a unique and magical effect on the plants. The experiment was fruitful and the plantation started rapidly since the year 1841. The rest is history.
Darjeeling Tea, when brewed properly, has a thin and light-colored drink with a floral aroma. In a year, tons and tons of tea beverages are produced in Darjeeling. A huge portion of which is exported to other parts of India and abroad light-colored. So if you have ordered tea say in a cafe in Italy, and you see “Darjeeling Tea” on the menu. Do not hesitate. It is quite possible that the cafe got imports of Darjeeling tea to Italy. The names on your Darjeeling Tea package includes the name of the tea garden where they were grown and manufactured. This is the best way to identify and authenticate the credibility of the Darjeeling tea in your possession. You can also clearly fathom the difference in taste between the various tea gardens in Darjeeling. And each garden has its own signature taste and quality.
It is impossible to grow or manufacture Darjeeling Tea anywhere else in the world. And its flavors cannot be copied since Darjeeling Tea has a Geographical Indication (GI) status which is protected worldwide. Currently, only 87 tea-estates within the GI (Geographic Indicator) defined areas as listed out by the Tea Board of India.
Darjeeling Tea Gardens
When the British left India they gave up ownership to some of the locals they were familiar with. Some were sold and some were merged, still, some went with partnerships. Currently, there are over 90 tea plantations in Darjeeling, fully functional and active. Among them, you can find variations ranging from high grade first flush tea to exotic flavored teas. It takes years of hard work and diligence to earn a name and reputation as a manufacturer of the best tea in the world. The employers and employees in these gardens work extremely hard to maintain the standard and to protect its own brand.
An average tea garden in Darjeeling ranges anywhere from around 300 acres to 1300 acres. Since running a tea garden requires huge manpower, there are hundreds of workers with families living within the tea estates. Most of the workers come from Nepal and the surrounding smaller villages in and around the Darjeeling district. They get trained and briefed about how the whole thing works, which is then passed on to the next generation. And so on and so forth.
The Darjeeling tea was first planted considering the similarity in the soil and climate required to grow tea. However, other features also play a big role in shaping the taste of the tea in a tea garden. For instance, how much sun a tea bush gets can determine the taste of the brewed tea. Likewise, the taste of the tea-bush receiving more rain also stands out from the others that didn’t get enough rain. The slopes of the tea estate also help drain excess water from harming the plants.
Therefore, it is possible to differentiate tastes between teas from two or more tea gardens. And many tea lovers in Darjeeling tend to prefer one tea brand from the others. While many just speculate and experiment.