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Darjeeling Tea

Shop for Darjeeling Teas

Darjeeling tea is a type of tea made solely with the leaves of Camellia sinensis grown in one of the gardens officially classified as a Darjeeling garden. Many of these gardens are growing jats (tea plant cuttings) that came from China in the 1880s. And many of these jats are now being replaced by clonal tea plants being given names like AV-2 and Jethi Kupi.

There are usually three flushes (periods of growth that then get harvested) during the growing season.

  • First flush (March through April) – produces a lightly fruity flavor like some of the finest green teas from China
  • Second flush (end of May through June) – produces a more fully developed tea with that very distinct Muscat grape (Muscatel) flavor profile
  • Third (Autumnal) flush (July through September) – produces a richer flavor that steeps up stronger and (for the more daring tea drinkers) can handle milk and sweetener added to it

All of our Darjeeling teas have the Darjeeling Tea Protected Origin Status.

The Darjeeling tea industry has been going through a hard time. Pushes to convert to all organic farming have cost tea farmers a lot of money and reduced yields by as much as one third. Factory fires have occurred at several gardens, with a heavy rebuilding expense. Garden owners have also been pushed into the expense of providing housing and schooling for workers and their families. Strikes have resulted in higher wages but not greater productivity and market prices for the teas. As a result, gardens are closing such as Peshok Tea Estate (still listed in tour guide books, though).

We do what we can to offer these teas to our customers at affordable prices, with a minimum markup to cover our administrative costs.

About Clonal Teas

Basically, “clonal” comes from “clone.” Clonal refers to the method of controlled breeding of plants to produce the best results but is fairly rare in the tea industry due to the expense. Clonal tea bushes are not grown from seeds but from hybrid clones. A lot of times, these clones are developed by research laboratories, much the same way many other plants that have a commercial use are developed. They are bred for specific qualities and are thus some of the most sought after teas, usually selling quickly despite generally higher prices. Many Darjeeling gardens (about 87 in total) are now growing a good percentage of clonal plants.

Note: Different tea clonals have different caffeine levels, with the younger, more tender leaves having a higher caffeine content than older leaves, and the stalks having an even lower content, plus how the leaves are plucked and seasonal fluctuations can also make quite a difference (often a variance of 24-30%) in caffeine levels.

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About Some of the Tea Gardens of Darjeeling

We don’t carry tea from all the gardens of Darjeeling. We carry (or have carried or will carry in the future) teas from some of these gardens and thought you’d like to know a bit more about them.

Arya (formerly Sidrabong)

Elevation:

900 to 1,820 meters

Location:

close to Darjeeling town

Founded:

1763 by Buddhist Monks
(formally registered under its current name with the Indian registrar of companies in 1885)

Annual Production:

65 metric tons
(dropped from 90 metric tons due to conversion to organic production, prices have not increased enough to make up for this loss, causing a hardship to the garden workers)
covers 125 hectares, just over 300 acres (121 hectares) under tea plantation
(1 Hectare = 2.47105381 Acres)

Factory:

Current factory built in 1999
(previous factory was modernized in 1997-1998, and destroyed by fire in May 1999)

Tea plants:

China jats, clonals
A phased program for new cultivation has been implemented

Processing Style:

Orthodox
very high production costs
hand made pearl white tea, pouchong teas, oolongs, emerald gyokoru type, and other specialties

Arya means ‘respectable’ and ‘best’ in the Indian language. The estate’s teas reflect the best qualities of first and second flush teas as well as green and rare teas. The garden struggles financially due to the loss of a factory that had been modernized at a cost of 120,000USD, burnt to the ground, and then was rebuilt at a cost of 350,000USD and now the switch to organic production pushed by the USDA and the EU, causing a drop of almost one third in tea production without a comparable rise in prices and sales.

According to historical records at the garden, it was established by a team of Buddhist monks who developed and cultured different varieties of Chinese seeds at the time.

The estate has the first hydel power generation in Asia.

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Castleton Tea Estate (formerly Kumseri)

Elevation:

980-2300 meters

Location:

Kurseong South Valley of Darjeeling
spans Kurseong, Pankhabari and the Hill Card Roads

Founded:

Originally planted in 1885 by Dr. Charles Graham

Annual Production:

30,545 Kgs
(172.96 hectares planted out of 254.18 hectares total)

Factory:

Spotlessly clean with gleaming white tea tables for spreading out the leaves to wither

Tea plants:

China bushes

Processing Style:

All orthodox style teas and considered by many to be among the finest

Tea Master Mr. DB Gurung creates a wonderful flavor profile in these delightful teas.

See more info here.

The name Castleton has been derived from a building that looked like a castle and still exists in Kurseong. This Castle ('Bank Ghar') belonged to a money lender who made the grandiose fort. The original name of this garden was Kumseri. The various sections of this gardens have been given names such as Bhalu Khop (bear cave), Jim Basha (the erstwhile manager's domain), Dhobitar (washerman's clothes line), Baseri (resting place).

Castleton's teas have rose like fragrance, golden like sun-spun amber and are most prized for their unique 'muscatel' comparable to sweet summer wines with intense fragrant top notes of musk.

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Dooteriah Tea Garden

Elevation:

3,362-7,000 feet

Location:

eastern valley of Darjeeling

Founded:

1859 (one of the first gardens planted)

Annual Production:

170,000 kgs.
(Only 440.94 hectares planted out of 1,242.86 hectares total)

Processing Style:

Orthodox

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Giddapahar Tea Estate (also known as “Eagles Cliff”)

Elevation:

4,864 feet

Location:

On a mountain a short drive from Kurseong

Founded:

1881

Run by:

Singh family since it’s founding

Annual Production:

About 14,000 lbs
(compared to Margaret's Hope annual production of about 600,000 lbs)
(Only 270.71 Acres planted out of 864 Acres total)

Factory:

Small, sits near the family home

Tea plants:

Almost 100% pure Chinese jats (cultivar of the tea plant Camellia sinensis)

Processing Style:

Orthodox using traditional and legendary methods for Darjeeling teas, entirely hand-plucked and processed

The temperatures at this elevation tend to be rather cool so that the plants grow more slowly, producing the fine aroma and flavors in the leaves and cup.

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Goomtee Tea Estate

Elevation:

3,000-6,000 feet

Location:

in the prime quality belt between Jungpana to the East and Castleton to the West

Founded:

1899
(planted by Mr. Henry Lennox, a British pioneer who also planted the original Jungpana garden)

Annual Production:

100,000 kgs.
Area Under Tea - 124.24 hectares
Gross - 234.72 hectares

Tea plants:

‘China' variety

Processing Style:

Orthodox

The temperatures are cool to moderate and rainfall is generous, making this garden ideally situated for production of quality tea. These conditions, combined with alternating mist and sunshine help produce the slow growing conditions, which are so necessary for natural quality development in the leaf. It includes several waterfalls and a beautifully landscaped flower garden surrounding a heritage bungalow.

Forced into organic production to be able to sell teas to US and EU markets, the Majhua Division of Goomtee has completed conversion to organic farming. This has reduced production and therefore income to the garden and the people dependent on it since prices have not gone up comparably. The garden has further economic pressure on it by having to provide services for workers that it cannot afford such as schooling for the children of workers. And as those children grow up, they leave to get other jobs, causing a worker shortage and further restricting supply.

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Gopaldhara Tea Estate

Elevation:

3,500-7,000 feet

Founded:

1881

Annual Production:

130,000 kgs.
(136.77 hectares planted out of 321 hectares total)

Processing Style:

Orthodox
Finest black, green, white, oolong, flavored and handmade teas

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Jungpana Tea Estate (Jungpana Upper)

Elevation:

3,000-4,500 feet

Location:

On the south side of a mountain in the foothills of the Himalayas

Founded:

1899

(planted by Mr. Henry Lennox, a British pioneer who also planted the original Goomtee garden)

Run by:

Kejriwal family since 1953
(previously the Ranas of Nepal who got the garden from Lennox)

Annual Production:

80,000 kgs.
(148 hectares planted out of 200 hectares total)
One of the smaller tea estates, growing and producing what many call vintage Darjeeling teas famous for their muscatel flavor

Tea plants:

Pure Chinese jats

Processing Style:

Orthodox using manufacturing techniques
produce the finest rich flavor and bouquet, a distinct flavor attributed to their micro-climate.

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Margaret's Hope Tea Estate and Maharanee Tea Estate (Orinal name: “BARA RINGTON”)

Founded:

1864

Annual Production:

280,000 kgs.
(585 hectares planted out of 778 hectares, low yield due to complying with organic farming standards)

Factory:

built in the year 1930 after dismantling the old factory by Mr. John Taylor with the help of a Chinese businessman, Mr. Longsin

Tea plants:

China variety

Processing Style:

Orthodox

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Mim Tea Estate

Elevation:

1970 meters
Classified as high grown tea (> 6,800 feet)

Location:

Darjeeling East Valley of Darjeeling

Annual Production:

115,000 Kgs annually

Tea plants:

Chinese Jat (gives it the distinctive muscatel character)

Processing Style:

Orthodox

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Rohini Tea Estate

Elevation:

1,500 feet, Jaberhat division, about 20 to 24 hectares.

Kotidhara and Pailodhora divisions, about 70 to 80 hectares, have AV2 and T-78 China clones, producing high quality teas

more than 4,000 feet, Tukuriya division

Location:

in Kurseong

Founded:

Unknown
closed between 1962 to 1994
reopened by Saria Family

Annual Production:

138 hectares planted (110 hectares replanted as of 1994) out of 320 hectares total

Factory:

new and incorporates all hygiene and food safety requirements

Tea plants:

China jats, clonals

Processing Style:

Orthodox

Sister gardens: Gopaldhara Tea Estate in the Darjeeling hills and New Glencoe and Soongachi Tea Estate in the Dooars.

Rohini Tea Estate is known to produce some of the most exquisite muscatel teas, from its second flush crop.

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Soom

Elevation:

about 5,200 feet (where the tea plants are)
(severe slopes, some almost 45 degrees, so the estate still carries the green leaf to the factory by mountain pony)

Factory:

new with all modern equipment
(the factory burned to the ground in 1995 and was out of production for one and a half years while it was rebuilt and re-equipped)

Tea plants:

Many are over 130 years old
(original Chinese jats smuggled out of China by Robert Fortune, a bold Scotsman)

Processing Style:

Orthodox

‘Soom’ in Lepcha Language, (local dialect) means 'Three' or 'Triangular.' This might account for the estate’s name since it is bounded by three streams, making it somewhat triangularly shaped. However, ‘Soom’ also means 'holy abode' and has a holy deity worshipped there, so that might account for the estate’s name.

1st Flush is vigorous because:

  • the day time temperature has risen by 5-7°C (from 10-12°C to 20°C)
  • the hours of daylight have increased (the vernal equinox has passed)
  • the weather is dry but excellent moisture in the soil from winter rains

It is not uncommon for some 1st Flush teas (March through to mid April) to be rushed to Germany in a race similar to the Beaujolais Run.

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Thurbo Tea Garden

Elevation:

762 to 1890 meters

Location:

snug in the shadows of Kanchenjunga Mountain, West Bengal, India

Annual Production:

400,000 Kgs.
(Only 477 hectares out of 1408 hectares planted)

Processing Style:

Orthodox

Part of the tea tourism scene where you can view the beauty of nature and have tea in the tea factory.

The name ‘Thurbo’ comes from the word ‘tombu’ (camp) since a camp had been set up there by the British when they were getting ready for a conflict with Nepal. There are nearby orange orchards and orchid farms, making it seem like quite a paradise. Add to that abundant rainfall and moderate temperatures (41-79°F).

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