What kind of tea do you want?”
“There´s more than one kind of tea?…
What do you have?”
“Let´s see… Blueberry, Raspberry, Ginseng, Sleepytime, Green Tea, Green Tea with Lemon, Green Tea with Lemon and Honey, Liver Disaster, Ginger with Honey, Ginger Without Honey, Vanilla Almond, White Truffle Coconut, Chamomile, Blueberry Chamomile, Decaf Vanilla Walnut, Constant Comment and Earl Grey.”
-“I.. Uh…What are you having?… Did you make some of those up?
Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
My last vacation to the Queen of Hills did a lot more than simply rejuvenating my body and mind. It taught me a lot about the aromatic Elixir, Tea. A lovely visit to the Happy Valley Tea Estate resulted in my newly gained knowledge, where we learnt about the types of Tea and the entire process from plucking to packaging.
About Happy Valley Tea Estate:
Happy Valley Tea Estate is the second oldest tea estate in Darjeeling, established in 1854. Originally named as the Wilson Tea Estate by David Wilson who started cultivation here in 1860, this was eventually taken up by many Indians and finally by the Ambotia group in 2007.
Their hand-rolled Darjeeling Tea is exclusively sold in Harrods UK and Mariage Frares in France.
How is Tea Processed:
Step 1: The tea leaves (specifically 2 leaves and a bud) are first plucked very tenderly
Step 2: Withering of leaves. The plucked leaves are spread and hot air is blown from below.
Step 3: Rolling and Oxidation. Rolling of leaves activates the enzymes within the leaves. The rolled leaves are then left in contact with fresh air to have it oxidised. Oxidation increases the caffeine content of tea.
Step 4: Drying of Leaves. The leaves are dried at a temperature of 100 to 120 degrees Celsius.
Step 5: Cutting, Grating and Shaping.
Based on the leaf size and shape, there are four types of Tea Leaves.
Whole Leaf: The leaves are 8-11 mm in size. Usually these leaves come in triangular tea bags. When brewed, they give a much lighter cup of tea but is high on flavor and is soothing.
Broken Leaf: They give a lesser flavor when brewed. They come in flat rectangular tea bags.
The last two types are usually mixed together.
Step 6: The shaped tea leaves are sent out for Quality Analysis.
Step 7: The tea is finally packed and ready to be brewed.
Interesting facts about Tea:
Tea Dust should not be confused with CTC. CTC, which stands for Cutting, Tearing and Curling follows an entirely different process.
For Green Tea and White Tea, the process of oxidation is omitted. Infact, white tea simply follows Withering and Cutting/Shaping. Since they are the least processed tea, they have extremely high anti – oxidising properties.
One of the most common categorization of Darjeeling tea is in terms of “flushes” which depends on the time the leaves are plucked.
The four varieties of tea, First flush, Second flush, Third flush and Fourth flush are tea leaves plucked during Spring, Summer, Monsoons and Autumn respectively.
First flush has an astringent smell and is high on aroma. It usually gives a light cup of tea.
Second flush, also high on aroma gives a stronger tea.
Third flush and Fourth flush tea are usually mixed and sold commercially as Third flush tea. This variety gives a very dark cup of tea.
For any tea garden, the taste of tea depends on a lot of geographical factors and hence may vary each year .
Must-Try Tea Boutiques in Kolkata and Darjeeling:
Nathmull’s of Darjeeling
Take in the aroma of freshly brewed tea – leaves, so onto the tea and if you like it, buy a packet to savour it later…if you wish a land of tea dream amidst the Queen of Hills, this is it. They serve a wide variety of Darjeeling Tea, right from Fragrant tea to White tea. Infact some of the varieties are served in Champagne flutes. Besides they sell all kinds of tea accessories, right from travel strainers to Tea – cosies. They also ship packets of tea if ordered via Email
Dhruba Tea Centre, Kolkata
Amidst the hustle-bustle of Lal Bazaar stands this supplier of tea. Be prepared to wait in a queue but good things come with a price. This place supplies all kinds of tea under the sun.
Dolly’s Tea House, Kolkata
A quaint cafe in Dakshinapan, this tea house serves all kinds of tea and some with a twist. They have their own tea mocktails as well.
There are a lot of online Tea Boutiques that supply Darjeeling Tea worldwide.
Storage and Brewing:
Once opened, Tea usually has a shelf life of 2 months. It should be stored in an air-tight container made of glass/steel.
While brewing tea, the leaves should be kept in hot water for 3-5 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea.
I believe by now you have had enough General Knowledge on Tea. So brew yourself a hot cup of and let your senses unwind.
Lots of love