Tucked away in the foothills of the snow-covered Himalayan mountains of northeast India lies the hill resort of Darjeeling 6,000 feet above sea-level and in the most spectacular setting, surrounded by over 49,421 acres of tea bushes. On a clear day, Mount Everest is visible in the distance.
Good Darjeelings are always referred to as the "Champagne" of teas, the subtle, muscatel flavor and wonderful aroma being produced by the unique combination of cool, misty climate, elevation, rainfall, terrain, and the quality of the soil and air:
Most of the bushes cultivated in the Darjeeling region are grown from China seed, China hybrid, or hybrid Assam bushes. The Chinese plants, more resistant to cold, are found in the higher plantations of northern Darjeeling where some bushes grow on sloping terrain over 6,000 feet high. In the southern plantations, which lie at lower elevations, the Assam plant likes the plentiful rainfall. Darjeeling's 102 gardens produce approximately 16,534.7 tons per yean The pickers, always women, start gathering the leaves in the early morning and sometimes work on terraced slopes that climb steadily upwards at an angle of 45 degrees.
Because of the climate and high elevations, Darjeeling tea bushes do not go on growing throughout the year. The teas are picked from April to October, when the period of winter dormancy begins and growing stops. New growth begins in March after the first light showers of spring. This is the first flush. The second flush is gathered in May and June. The monsoon, which reaches the area in the middle of June and continues until the end of September; brings a total of 9 feet 9 inches to 16 feet 3 inches of rainfall. The teas produced during this period contain a lot of moisture and are of standard quality. The leaves are processed by the orthodox method of manufacture and have a brownish, black, well-twisted appearance with plenty of golden tip.
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