Darjeeling Tea Taste Test

darjeeling tea pickers

Following the success of my Earl Grey Taste Test last month I and a fellow instagram tea drinker decided to conduct a Darjeeling Taste Test.

I have a great informative Tea book, titled The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard, the following is an extract regarding Darjeeling tea.

The Darjeeling region of India may cover only 181sq km (70 sq miles), but it produced one of the most famous teas in the world.  Cool temperatures and high altitudes produce leaves with aromatic flavours that are highly acclaimed.

Located in the state of West Bengal in north India.  Darjeeling sits at the edge of the Himalayas.  A well-established tea-growing region, some of its 87 tea estates date back to the mid-1800s.  Darjeeling produces only 1.13 per cent of India’s total output of tea, but it is of such high quality that it is protected by Geographical Indication.

Var. sinensis is grown here along with some var. assamica hybrids.  The high elevation, q1,000-2,100m (3,280-6,890ft) influences the flavour of the finished tea.  The leaves grow very slowly because they are constantly shrouded in cool mist. During the growing season, the plants respond well to warm days and cool evenings. These conditions help to create intense flavour in the leaves.

Tea is harvested three times a year with a dormant period between each picking seach.  Each ‘flush’, or surge of bud growth on the tea plant, has a distinct flavour character.  First flush if the most piquant, second flush has a complex profile, while autumnal flush has deeper maltier flavours.

This test had 11 very good quality looseleaf tea contenders from 6 different UK tea merchants consisting of:

I wanted to do a blind taste test so I numbered cups with a corresponding tea infuser/teapot against the numbered list of teas.  I used just less than a teaspoon of tea for each cup and used 200ml of boiling water and steeped for 2 minutes.

This resulted in eleven cups of varying colours of amber liquid.

darjeeling ready cups

Sipping each one I took notes on colour, taste and aroma and must admit it was quite a task.  All the teas were very drinkable but there were three that stood out for me.

darjeeling star

The runners up were Darjeeling from Canton Tea Co; a 1st Flush Makaibari Darjeeling from The Tea Experience UK and my favourite today was an Autumnal Flush Darjeeling from Northern Tea Merchants.  The Autumnal Flush from Northern Tea had a lovely aroma with a full flavoured Darjeeling taste, the colour of the brew was a golden amber and it was just lovely and mellow to drink.  I would happily drink all of the eleven teas I tried and would like to thank the tea merchants for bringing this tea to the UK for us all to enjoy.