Darjeeling tea（大吉岭茶） is called the champagne of black tea and black tea varieties are priced higher. Quality characteristics of Darjeeling tea:
Shape: fat and bold
Color: auburnish yellow
Soup color: deep golden or light coral
Aroma: muscatel grapes or green almond
Taste: sweet and mellow
Infused leaves: tender and even, bright
Darjeeling tea is a tea from the Darjeeling region in West Bengal, India. It is available as black, white or oolong, black mainly. When properly brewed, it yields a thin-bodied, light-colored infusion with a floral aroma. The flavor can include a tinge of astringent tannic characteristics, and a musky spiciness sometimes described as “muscatel”. Although Darjeeling teas are marketed commercially as “black teas”, almost all of them have incomplete oxidation (<90%), so they are technically more oolong than black.
Unlike most Indian teas, Darjeeling is normally made from the small-leaved Chinese variety of Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, rather than the large-leaved Assam plant (C. sinensis var. assamica). Traditionally, Darjeeling tea is made as black tea; however, Darjeeling oolong and green teas are becoming more commonly produced and easier to find, and a growing number of estates are also producing white teas.
Darjeeling tea cannot be grown or manufactured anywhere else in the world, similar to Champagne in that region of France.
Traditionally, Darjeeling teas are classified as a type of black tea. However, the modern Darjeeling style employs a hard wither (35-40% remaining leaf weight after withering), which in turn causes an incomplete oxidation for many of the best teas of this designation, which technically makes them a form of oolong. Many Darjeeling teas also appear to be a blend of teas oxidized to levels of green, oolong, and black.
First flush is harvested in mid-March following spring rains, and has a gentle, very light color, aroma, and mild astringency. In between is harvested between the two “flush” periods. Second flush is harvested in June and produces an amber, full bodied, muscatel-flavored cup.Monsoon or rains tea is harvested in the monsoon (or rainy season) between second flush and autumnal, is less withered, consequently more oxidized, and usually sold at lower prices. It is rarely exported, and often used in masala chai.Autumnal flush is harvested in the autumn after the rainy season, and has somewhat less delicate flavour and less spicy tones, but fuller body and darker color.
When Darjeeling teas are sold, they are graded by size and quality. The grades fall into four basic groups: whole leaf, broken leaf, fannings, and dust.
SFTGFOP: Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe indicates it contains many tips and is long and wiry in appearance. The liquors are lighter in color.
FTGFOP: Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
TGFOP: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
Broken leaf consists of small tea leaves or pieces of large leaves.
FTGBOP: Fine Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
TGBOP: Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
FBOP: Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
BOP: Broken Orange Pekoe
Fannings consists of even smaller leaf sizes than the brokens.
GFOF: Golden Flowery Orange Fannings
GOF: Golden Orange Fannings
Dust, the lowest grade, consists of small pieces of tea leaves and tea dust.
The many tea estates in Darjeeling each produce teas with different characteristics in taste and aroma. Some of the popular estates include: Arya, Avongrove, Happy Valley, Pattabong, Singla, Soureni, Vah Tukvar, Makaibari.