The Darjeeling region of India is famous for its black teas, but they should actually be called oolong teas. Black teas undergo full oxidization, but most Darjeeling teas are less than 90% oxidized. Because they are technically oolong teas, they brew to a light amber infusion with a fresh, floral aroma. They have a spicy flavor that is often described as “muscatel” and can have a slightly bitter finish.
Where to buy
These teas can be found just about everywhere, but for a good one, look to specialty tea shops or online vendors. If you are unsure where to begin, you can check out some of my recommendations below.
How to Prepare Darjeeling Tea
The preparation instructions given here are for loose leaf teas. For tea bags, you can just follow the instructions given on the box.
Teas from India’s most famous growing region can be a bit trickier to brew than other black teas. Since they are not usually fully oxidized, they should be brewed at a slightly lower temperature than most: 80-90ºC (180-194ºF) is a good start.
You can just boil the water using a simple stove-top kettle and then let it cool for two minutes or so. It would be better to use a thermometer to more accurately judge the water temperature.
If you plan on trying a lot of varieties of tea and/or coffee it might be worth it to invest in a water boiler/warmer or an electric kettle with a variable temperature setting. Personally, I recommend the utiliTEA kettle, since it is inexpensive and has separate temperature settings for the different types of tea.
Darjeeling tea can be brewed in a variety of vessels, but a ceramic teapot is probably the best choice.
- Fill both the teapot and the cups about halfway with hot water to pre-heat them. Tilt them a bit so that the water creeps up the side and then rotate them so the insides get wet all the way around. Then pour the water out.
- Put 1 teaspoon of tea leaves into the teapot for every 8 oz. (236 ml) of water.
- Fill the teapot with 80-90ºC (180-194ºF) water.
- Place the lid on the teapot and let the tea steep for 2 minutes.
- Pour the tea into the teacups and enjoy your tea!
With these teas you want to be careful not to over-brew them, especially cheaper varieties, as they can easily become bitter. Because of that, the amounts and times given in the instructions are somewhat conservative; use them as a rough guide.
Many people already have an account with Amazon.com so it is probably the easiest place to buy tea online. Unfortunately, most of their Darjeeling black teas are fairly low quality. The one exception is the organic First Flush Darjeeling from SerendipiTea. It’s a great tea for the price.
If you don’t care so much about quality and just want a drinkable, inexpensive tea, Amazon has a lot of options. Personally, I like this one. It’s not the greatest, but it’s decent and inexpensive. I’d use it to fill a thermos and drink throughout the day or to make iced tea.
My favorite option is the award winning Biodynamic Darjeeling from Art of Tea. It was voted the best black tea at the World Tea Expo. Hand picked and artisan-processed, it brews to a light amber color, with a fresh floral and apple-like character. A 100% Darjeeling like this is rare outside India. It’s a great purchase and not at all expensive.
Slightly cheaper is the Castleton Estate Darjeeling First Flush Tea from Silver Leaf Teas. Naturally the quality is lower, but it’s still a good tea and a very good price for a first flush.