Updated: May 21, 2020
Darjeeling is known as the Champagne of teas with their thin light coloured infusion with floral notes and distinctive muscatel flavour. But this unique flavour is actually as a result of some useful little insects Situated in Northern India the Darjeeling region is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas. The first tea plants were planted in Darjeeling by Archibald Campbell in 1841. These plants were the Chinese veriety of Camellia Senensis with smaller more delicate leaves, opposed to the larger leafed Assamica varient grown elsewhere in India. The cool damp misty climate combined with the high elevation which still provided the right amount of sunlight for the plants, gave the optimal growing conditions. Such as was the success of growing these plants, that by 1866 there were 39 tea gardens covering 1000 acres. This helped to feed the British Empires demand for tea while it weened itself off exports from China.
The high elevation and optimal growing conditions help these plants to grow well in Darjeeling but the unique spicy sweet flavour, often described as 'muscatel', actually comes from the help of some little insects. In Darjeeling various insects, jassids and thrips, feast on the leaves which partly damages them. In response the plant produces a repellent called terpene, the more terpene the more muscatel flavour the leaves produce. These critters are particularly prevalent in the 2nd flush picked from June to August which gives that season's tea it's distinctive fruity flavour. There multiple harvest through the year, and when the new shoots start to appear this is called the flush. In Darjeeling the first flush happens after winter between March and May, then the 2nd flush between June and August before the final Autumn flush between October and November. There is a marked difference between each flush. The 1st flush is quite light and floral, due to its freshness it tends to find the highest price at auctions. The 2nd flush has slightly more body with more fruity notes, there is debate on which flush is more superior but I think it comes down to personal preference for certain flavour profiles. Then there are the Autumn flush which are darker bolder brews which contain a more woody character, these generally go for much less at auction and tend to be used for blends.
Our own Distinguished Darjeeling tea is a high quality full leaf 2nd Flush single estate tea from the Oakes tea estate, its one of the oldest and best reknowned gardens in the region. It has subtle woody charcter beautifully balanced with a sublime fruity finish.