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Darjeeling Tea Protected Origin Status

darjeeling-seal.jpgNote: All of our Darjeeling teas have this status and come only from reputable dealers.

A protected origin status is a special designation for a product from a particular area. The European Commission, on behalf of the Tea Board of India, the Darjeeling Tea Association and all of the tea growers in Darjeeling, India, granted this status to Darjeeling tea in October 2011. This status was needed due to the growing problem of teas from the Darjeeling area of West Bengal in northern India being blended with inferior teas and thus drawing down the quality and reputation of these teas overall. (The only other tea to receive a Protected Origin Status was Longjing, aka Dragonwell, from China. Darjeeling tea was the first PGI status product granted in the entire country of India.)

What is PGI status

PGI stands for “Protected Geographical Indication.” This is for products produced or processed or prepared within a specific geographical area, and with features or qualities attributable to that area. They can have this status as long as a certain stage of the production process takes place in the pre-determined region. (PDO, or Protected Designation of Origin, status requires that the entire production process take place inside the pre-determined region).

The uniqueness of Darjeeling teas

Darjeeling teas are grown mostly from Chinese jats (see our blog article here) but are also affected by the local growing conditions, known collectively as “terroir” (French for “soil”). The soil, elevation, and climate all combine to create a very distinctive flavor element in the teas from this area. It’s called “muscatel” due to the similarity to muscat grapes. This quality has made Darjeeling teas the favorites of tea connoisseurs around the world and, thus, the target of those who would use that reputation to their advantage. Some blends featured as little as 10% Darjeeling tea leaves. Their unique muscatel quality was getting buried under inferior quality teas. Other vendors didn’t even bother with the 10%.

What the protection will achieve

The protection was set up to phase in over a 5-year period and should be fully implemented in 2016-17. A special seal is used by the gardens in the designated geographic area (there are currently 87 or 88 such gardens) to assure professional vendor buyers (those who go to these gardens, test and select from their teas) as well as consumers that buy from the vendors that the teas are authentic. This protects the reputation and pricing of these teas. Customers appreciate it so they can have more assurance that they are getting authentic Darjeeling teas.