The Darling of Darjeeling

By Courtney Van Evera

Before the plucking of Darjeeling teas even begins, the Glenburn Tea Estate celebrates.  Glenburn Day honors the local community surrounding and within the estate and it is imperative to the tea production process.  Events included speeches, dancing, singing, and a soccer tournament, showcasing aspects of Nepali and Indian culture. Placing extraordinary value on community engagement, it’s no wonder Happy Lucky’s has close ties with the Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling, India.

Similar to Assam’s story, the Darjeeling region of India, nestled between the Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim kingdoms of old, came under British control through military intervention in the early 1800’s. Nepal was about to take over the kingdom of Sikkim, and the British stepped in. Through multiple negotiations, the British acquired the deed for the land of Darjeeling from the Rajah of Sikkim. Remember the Camellia sinensis sinensis seeds from China that failed in Assam? Some of the better stock made it to Darjeeling, where it was carefully cultivated starting in 1860 with experimental gardens.

Although the British desired the Darjeeling area for reasons unrelated to tea, it turned out to be the perfect place for cultivating it. There are 5 to 6 hours of sun each day, with 180 days of sun each year: perfect for tea as some protection from the sun is ideal. Mountain mist also helps this cause. Darjeeling has an idyllic heavy rain season each year, and the slope of the mountain sides yield natural drainage. The soil is nearly perfect for growing tea because it is slightly acidic, contains organic material from forests, and includes a helpful proportion of clay. At a high elevation, the buds of the tea plant grow slowly, so that flavors are able to fully develop and intensify. As a finishing touch, cold air from the Himalayas expels surplus moisture which results in a clarity of flavor.

From here, Sujoy Sengupta, a Darjeeling tea producer, sums it up when he says, “Plucking can only be done by hand” and “judging fermentation can only be done by the nose (taken from Koehler, 2015).” There are no amateurs in the production of Darjeeling tea.

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How has Darjeeling tea infiltrated the world market, with large consumption in Germany, Japan, France, North America, China, and Iran? Apart from a remarkable product in taste due to terroir and production, the answer is community.

Once India gained its independence from Great Britain in 1947, almost all Darjeeling tea estate ownership was handed over to Indian tea growers or product suppliers, as European owners returned to their homes. When Indian people took control of tea estates or migrated to Darjeeling to apprentice tea cultivation and production, they tended to stay for generations, building a passion for the native land. Darjeeling tea estate administrators have recently caught onto this phenomenon of creating culture, passion, and pride in the tea traditions and innovations of Darjeeling. This community is what top tier tea experts believe will propel Darjeeling tea to lead the global economy of the future.    

Available at Happy Lucky’s are six Glenburn Darjeelings:

Glenburn First Flush Darjeeling Black Tea: First Flush refers to the first picking season in early spring. A stylishly made tea with an abundance of silver tips. The liquor is light and bright, smooth on the palate with undertones of citrus and grape. Full of aroma, it exemplifies all the attributes of a fine Darjeeling First Flush tea.

Glenburn Second Flush Darjeeling Black Tea: Plucked in the early summer months of May and June, this stylishly rolled leaf is made from select shoots that draw their succulence from the late spring showers. The leaves have matured a bit from the first flush, giving the tea more complexity. The liquor is a clear amber, while remaining full-bodied with a flowery nose. It has a complex layer of maltiness with nutty undertones.

Glenburn Monsoon Season Black Tea: Monsoon Flush is a bit hardier and more full bodied than first or second flush. It is harvested in late summer, from July to September. The leaf color has darkened as well as the brew it yields. The taste is bolder and more robust than the earlier plucks, with the malty notes being more up front.

Glenburn Autumn Crescendo: Glenburn Autumn Cresendo is the last tea plucked for black tea production in the season. Harvested in November from select clonal fields, the brew has a coppery color said to be reminiscent of the sun on the snows of Mount Kanchenjunga, the shadow of which it’s made. The flavor is full-bodied yet mellow, with a long lasting finish, both malty and floral.

Glenburn Silver Needle White Tea: This rare White Tea is harvested in midsummer, when the silvery green buds are about to unfold. Picked by only the most experienced hands to preserve the fuzzy “down” on the buds. The flavor is light and floral with a honey-like texture. This tea is exquisite any time of the day or night.

Glenburn Autumn Oolong: Glenburn Autumn Oolong is an exceptional twisted leaf or strip style oolong. In Darjeeling, India, the most commonly produced tea style is black, and an oolong like this is much more of a rarity. Harvested in October, the flavor of this tea is quite reminiscent of stone fruits, with that signature Darjeeling muscatel like natural sweetness that lingers.

It’s always a good time to celebrate Glenburn Day!

 

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