The Darjeeling district lies in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountain range, situated in the northern part of India's West Bengal Province. Darjeeling teas are grown at high altitude along steep slopes and are widely recognized and prized for their unique flavour and aroma characteristics.
The weather conditions in Darjeeling are highly variable, which produces teas with different character at different times of the year. Unlike teas grown in more tropical conditions, Darjeeling's tea plants lay dormant during the winter months. The new pale green plant growth which usually emerges around the end of February is harvested to produce First Flush Darjeeling Teas. First Flush Darjeeling Tea leaves typically have a greenish appearance and produce a tea liquor with a lighter, more delicate body, a complex and nuanced sweetness matched with a slightly raspy astringency. First Flush Darjeeling season usually lasts until early April, after which the tea plants' new growth thickens producing a coarser, more bitter tea.
Towards the end of May, warmer and wetter weather produces new plant growth that is darker and more robust. This new growth is harvested to produce Second Flush Darjeeling Tea. Second Flush Darjeeling tea leaves are more reddish-brown in appearance and produce a copper coloured tea liquor that is more full bodied, with complex flavour and aroma notes that are sweet and spicy. Second Flush Darjeeling teas can range in astringency from very smooth to moderately astringent.
Monsoon rains typically arrive towards the end of June / early July which over saturates the soil and thickens the tea plants. Teas produced during the monsoon season are very strong, with the strength overpowering the nuance and sweetness found in the second flush teas.
After the rainy season, the fall season brings weather conditions that are suitable again for producing quality teas. Autumn Harvest Darjeeling Tea leaves can range in colour from khaki to brown and produce a medium-bodied coppery tea liquor with a sweet flavour similar to Second Flush Darjeeling teas, with more mellowness and with somewhat less depth.
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