Darjeeling Tea Gardens
Spreading The Flavor Throughout The World
The high hills of Darjeeling are more than just a picturesque piece of land. On the slopes of these beautiful hills lies the lush green patches of Darjeeling Tea gardens, that gives the world, probably the most refreshing early morning companion ever known - The Darjeeling Tea. The number of operational tea gardens in the entire region is approximately 86 that covers an area of nearly 19,000 hectares. It produces 10-11 million kgs of tea annually, and the revenue generated by this production has become the backbone of Darjeeling economy. It is even more than the income produced by tourism in the region. Tea gardening employs nearly 52,000 workers on a permanent basis and nearly 15,000 during the plucking season. And what's heartening to see is that more than 55% of these workers are women.
It all started when the Bengal government decided to raise tea gardens in the year 1847. After several successful experiments on tea plants at different altitudes, many plantations were started in 1852 having plants from China Assam. The first tea gardens that started here were named Tukvar, Steinthal and Aloobari. Looking at the huge production, large areas of forests were cleared to set up tea estates. Within few years more than 100 tea gardens started operating in Darjeeling district alone apart form those which were present in Kalimpong and Kurseong.
Die-Hard Flavours of Darjeeling Tea
Darjeeling tea varies dramatically according to the season in which it is plucked. Starting from mid February till November end, there are four plucking seasons. Febraury to April, the season is Easter Flush. This tea is probably the most eagerly waited for. The light colored tea gives a very soothing brisk flavor. It is immediately packed and transported to many parts of the world. Spring flush continues from May till June which yields tea of the best quality. The tea has a slight purple color to it and a unique flavor. Next is the Summer flush from July till September. The tea is far more stronger in taste than the rest., though the difference is not very prominent visually. The last one is the Autumn Flush that stretches form October till November. The main feature of this tea is the large leaves and coppery tinge to the taste.
During the first two seasons, fine plucking is done that includes plucking of two tender leaves and a bud. In other seasons, three or four leaves are also picked with a single bud. This is called coarse plucking. These leaves and bud are put into a basket hung on the shoulders of the tea pickers. These are then passed through different stages of processing like withering, rolling, fermentation, firing and sorting before they are packed, ready to be delivered.
Since most of the tea gardens in Darjeeling are privately owned, tourists are still not allowed to enter the tea gardens. One has to take the approval of the owners and the officers to enjoy the tea garden tour. A look from a close distance over these thousand acre garden estates is the most memorable of all. While buying Darjeeling tea, make sure it is not fake. Tea produced in Kalimpong and Kurseong Districts are also sold as Darjeeling Tea.