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AN ARTICLE WRITTEN ON

DARJEELING
TEA

BY
PRAVEEN KUMAR
INDIAN INSTITUTE OF PLANTATION MANAGEMENT,
BANGALORE
DARJEELING

The Exquisite One

Darjeeling is one of the world’s finest hill resorts with breathtaking view of the
Himalayan range in the North-East of India. In an around this picturesque setting,
sheltered by the mighty snow-capped Kanchenjunga peak, lie the tea gardens producing
tea unequalled anywhere in the world – the DARJEELING tea. No other tea anywhere in the
world has its delicate ‘muscatel’ flavour, fine aroma and exquisite bouquet.

The exquisite flavour of DARJEELING tea is a result of a combination of plant genes, soil
chemistry, elevations, temperatures and rainfall unique to the Darjeeling hills. The
tea gardens are situated at elevations ranging from 600 to 2000 metres above sea level on
steep slopes which provide natural drainage to the generous rainfall that the region
receives.

Tea bushes mostly belong to the ‘China Jat’ and ‘China Hybrid’. An abundan ce of fine hairy
growth (pubescence) termed as ‘tip’ on the underside of the leaf, on the bud and
sometimes even on the stalk gives DARJEELING tea its fine ‘tippy’ quality and precious flavour.
To maintain the superlative quality of the tea, clonal propagation is widely practiced.

Plucking season begins in March following the first light showers after winter, producing
the ‘Spring flush’. The ‘Summer flush’ is gathered in May and June and is in great
demand the world over for the pronounced ‘muscatel’ flavour. ‘Monsoon’ tea is produced from
mid-July to September. October yields another batch of vintage tea known as
‘Autumnal’.

At Darjeeling Tea Research Centre situated in Kurseong, Darjeeling, research is an
ongoing process to upgrade, to improve and to ensure that the DARJEELING tea ever
remains the exquisite one.
ASSAM

The Strong One
Assam – to the far North-East of India – the land of the one-horned rhino, the land of the
mighty Brahmaputra river …on both sides of which lie the rolling plains, the single
largest area under tea cultivation in the world. Alongside Assam’s verdant tea bushes lie
one of India’s richest game reserves. Amidst these exciting surroundings is grown
ASSAM tea known for its strong, bright and full-bodied liquor. It is favoured the world
over by those who love their cup strong.

Assam is the birthplace of Indian Tea. In 1823, Robert Bruce discovered the plant
growing wild in the region. ASSAM tea was India’s first offering to the world. And
predictably it look the world by strom.

The rich alluvial soil along the banks of the river Brahmaputra and suitable climatic
conditions lend themselves ideally to tea cultivation. The tea plants are predominantly of
the ‘Assam Indigenous’, ‘Assam Hybrid’. At present clonal propagation is widely
practiced to ensure excellent standards of tea from this region.

March ushers in hectic plucking season. The first flush is followed by the second flush in
April & May. Tippy ASSAM tea of the first and second flush have a characteristic
flavour and strong liquor.

July to September is the time of the heavy rains. About 75% of the ASSAM tea is
produced in this season. Gradually as the climate becomes cooler and drier, the
‘Autumnals’ make their appearance which are very similar to the second flush in quality.
With December dormant period sets in.

The Tocklai Experimental Station in Jorhat, Assam, oldest and biggest Tea Research
Centre in the world, is engaged in Research & Development to ensure that the tea bushes
give excellent yield and high quality tea throughout.

For a strong invigorating cup of cheer, come savour the richness of ASSAM tea. If
strength is your weakness, ASSAM is just your cup of tea.
NILGIRI
The Fragrant One
Nilgiri literally mean the Blue Mountains. And blue they are, striding across
a land
lush with vegetation and teeming with wildlife and the source of numerous
streams and
rivers. The Nilgiris are one of the most spectacular ranges in South India and the
world famous hill resort Ootacamund (lovingly called Ooty) is situated in these hills.
Against this idyllic background, t he famous NILGIRI tea is grown.

The combination of the fine fragrance and brisk liquor make NILGIRI a truly unique tea
found nowhere else in the world. NILGIRI tea is grown at an elevation ranging from
1000 metres to above 2500 metres. Geographically, Nilgiris come under the influence of
both South-West and North-East monsoons. One significant fact is that here plucking
continues throughout the year with no dor mant season.

Though most of the tea estates are dominated by ‘China’ and ‘Assam’ Jat, clonal
propagation is widely practiced to maintain excellent standards. The United Planters’
Association of South India (UPASI ) looks after the interests of the tea growers of South
India.

NILGIRI tea is a blender’s dream for its unique combination of fragrance, briskness,
flavour and strength. Come, savour the fragrant magic a sip of NILGIRI tea.
KNOW YOUR TEA GRADES

India tea, whether grown in the foothills of the Himalayas in Darjeeling, in the plains of
Assam or in the blue mountains of the Nilgiris, is available to you in a wide variety. Teas
are essentially of three grades – leaf, broken and dust. In each of these main grades, the
tea is further classified according to size and final grades generally bear fancy na mes.

Leaf Grades

Orange Pekoe (O.P) – This consists of long, thin and wiry leaves containing tip or bud
leaf. The liquors are generally light or pale in colour but are highly flavoury when infused
from high grown teas.

Pekoe (P)- The leaves are slightly shorter and not so wiry as those of O.P. The liquors,
however, have more colour and the teas brew quicker than O.P.

Broken Grades

Broken Orange Pekoe (B.O.P) – These are smaller than any leaf grades and usually
contain tips. The liquors have good colou r and strength.

Fannings or Pekoe Fannings –These are smaller than B.O.P. and are quick brewing and
give good colour liquors.

Dusts

These are smaller particles of tea, and are very useful for quick brewing. The liquor
produced have both strength and colour. Dusts are extensively used for catering purpose.
Speciality Teas from India
Black tea: These teas are fermented and fired to bring out the inherent taste, flavour and
aroma. The tea that is so popular throughout the world is availab le everywhere in India.

Instant Teas: India has modern manufacturing units, where instant tea is produced
mainly for exports.

Green Teas: Green leaf is steamed or roasted as soon as possible after it is plucked, to
halt fermentation. Research shows tha t green teas contain antioxidants which are good for
health. Green teas from Darjeeling and Kangra are popular worldwide.

Oolong Teas: This is a semi-fermented or semi-oxidised tea. The time of picking being
crucial for Oolong tea – the leaves should be neither too young nor too mature. Soon after
plucking, the leaves are allowed to wilt in direct sunlight or dried with warm air to
remove moisture and then rolled. After oxidisation the l eaves turn reddish brown and
adds to fragrance.

Bio-dynamic Teas: A holistic approach based on the lunar calendar, is used to make
bio-dynamic teas. Fresh spring water, natur al fertilizers, even herbs like oak bark,
yarrow, chamomile, valerian etc. are put to use.

White Teas: The new buds are plucked before they open, then withered to allow the
natural moisture to evaporate. Sun dried and un fermented, these teas are silvery in
appearance and give a pale and straw coloured liquor.

Flavoured teas: Flavoured teas are gaining po pularity in the west. India too
manufactures flavoured teas for the export market.