Why is Darjeeling tea famous? Top 5 things to know about Darjeeling tea gardens
We have always talked about our fantastic Darjeeling tea, sourced from the best tea estates in the region however, it is extremely important and wonderful to note the rich cultural history, climate, social importance and scenic beauty of the tea gardens. Darjeeling tea is known as the ‘champagne’ of tea due to its regional exclusivity and thus, the exquisite and delicate taste and aroma of Darjeeling tea is unmatched and cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world. This has given the tea industry in Darjeeling a massive boost over the years and it remains a fan favorite and a much coveted tea amongst tea connoisseurs.
The 5 main things that one must know about this famous tea producing region are listed below!
1. Rich history
The history of Darjeeling tea gardens dates back to the British era when the East India Company decided to stop importing tea from China. This resulted in many attempts to plant or find the Camellia Sinensis plant. Dr. Campbell, a civil surgeon planted tea seeds in his garden at Beechwood, as an experiment in the year 1841. His estate was in Darjeeling, 7000ft above sea level and this was the beginning of Darjeeling tea, some 150 odd years ago. He was reasonably successful in raising the plant hence, the government decided to put out tea nurseries in this area in the year 1847. According to records, the first commercial tea gardens were planted in 1852, by the British and they were the Tukvar, Steinthal and Aloobari tea estates. All the tea estates used seeds that were raised in government nurseries. In those times, Darjeeling was an exotic hill station frequented by the rich and affluent and had a comparatively smaller population and hence, labor was required. This allowed many people from Nepal, Sikkim and West Bengal to come and work in the tea gardens and thus has been a major source of livelihood for the people of Darjeeling.
Tea gardens in Darjeeling have consistently grown in number over the years. There were 39 tea gardens in 1866 and today the number stands at an impressive 86 tea gardens.
2. Social importance of the tea gardens
The social importance of the Darjeeling tea gardens is immense. The economy of Darjeeling is heavily dependent on tea and tourism and thus the tea gardens are a source of livelihood for many people in the region. The Plantations Labor Act enacted by the State of West Bengal has made it immensely conducive for the workers to live a life of dignity and decency and give back to the community. This includes healthcare for the workers, education for their children, housing and other things. The Teesta Tea and tourism Festival which has flourished in Darjeeling and attracts an international audience and patronage has given the locals in Darjeeling a platform to showcase their cultural heritage through tea and be proud of their own produce. Since the economy of Darjeeling mainly revolves around tea and tourism, it is important to note that the Toy Train and the Ghum Railway station, both promoted by the West Bengal government are prominent attractions and overlook the rolling tea plantations. Tea is a way of life in Darjeeling and a source of livelihood for many permanent as well as seasonal workers that inhabit the district.
3. Scenic beauty
Anyone who has visited Darjeeling will vouch for its unparalleled scenic beauty. With lush greenery as far as the eye can reach, bordered by the mighty Kanchenjunga which gives way to clear skies with a cool and crisp air, this hill station will surely take your breath away. The tea gardens are a picture of beauty and serenity. The West Bengal government has made space for ‘tea tourism’ which allows tourists to come and experience living in tea estates, plucking tea leaves, brewing fresh Darjeeling tea and immersing themselves in the local tea culture which is an extremely wonderful and rewarding experience. The backdrop of the snow capped mountains in contrast with the lush green tea leaves is a sight to behold and you will be reminded of it each time you sip a warm cup of Darjeeling tea.
The tea gardens are located on the hillsides of the Eastern Himalaya, between 600 and 2,000 meters in elevation. The physical geography of the region results in the land experiencing cool air with dry winter months from November to February followed by monsoon weather in the summer months between July and September. The subtropical and wet temperate forest cover that has developed under these conditions have resulted in slightly acidic loamy soils with high organic materials. Because the plantations are on steep slopes, the soil is well-drained and deep enough for long root systems. Being on the sides of the hills and at high elevations where cool dry air interacts with warm moist air, there is persistent fog or cloud cover during the growing months. These are ideal conditions for the Camellia Sinensis plant and it is these climatic conditions that drive the different plucking seasons - Spring (1st flush), Summer (2nd flush), Monsoon flush and Autumn flush. Click here to know more about tea flushes!
5. Multiple estates
What is extremely impressive to note about Darjeeling and its tea industry is the sheer number of tea estates that are currently present and functioning in the region. There are currently 86 tea estates which produce about 10 million kgs of tea annually and are responsible for maintaining the standards of one of the most popular and highly sought after teas in the world. Some of the tea estates that we work with are the Puttabong Tea Estate, Makaibari Tea Estate, Mim Tea Estate, Muskatel valley, Gopaldhara Tea Estate, Namring Tea Estate, Castleton Tea Estate and other smaller farms. (more information on them can be found here) Apart from the ones mentioned here, there are multiple others such as
- Arya Tea Estate
- Chongtong Tea Estate
- Kalej Valley Tea Estate
- Lingia Tea Estate
- Marybong Tea Estate
- Orange Valley (Bloomfield Tea Estate)
- Pussimbing Tea Estate
- Badamtam Tea Estate
- Bannockburn Tea Estate
- Barnesbeg Tea Estate
- Ging Tea Estate
To name a few.
The Darjeeling tea gardens are a must visit location for any tea lover. The scenery coupled with the exquisite tea, warm people, rich heritage and valued history will surely mesmerize you!
Have you been to Darjeeling?
Would you like to visit?
Tell us in the comments below!