Quality and the Seasons of Darjeeling Tea
The exquisite qualities of Darjeeling tea manifest themselves distinctively during the growing season from March to November each year.
After a period of dormancy in the winter months, in March and April the bushes offer delicate new shoots which provide a grey-green glazed leaf appearance, a light clear liquor, fresh bright and lively character with a pleasant hint of mild astringency to the palate. The infused leaf has a prominent lime greenish brightness and a floral scent. These are the “Spring” teas.
From May onward the famed Darjeeling “Summer” teas are produced. The succulent leaves result in a very attractive tea with a purplish bloom and a sprinkling of silvery tips (buds). The liquor characteristics show a change, tasting round, mellow, mature, sometimes with pronounced muscatel flavor and more color in the cup than in Spring. During this period, the infused leaf turns a bright copper/purple color, expressing a rich and full bodied aroma.
“Monsoon” teas produced from mid-July to September have more color and are stronger. These form the bulk of the “breakfast” blends.
“Autumnal” quality makes its presence felt during the months of October and November. The appearance of the tea takes on a light copper/brownish tinge and liquors have a delicate yet sparkling character, a delightful flavor distinct from both spring and summer teas. The infused leaf has a coppery gold brightness with a sweet, fresh “nose.”
Even within this broad categorization of quality changes over the seasons, individual estates consistently assert their personalities as distinctly recognizable individual entities. This complexity gives Darjeeling tea a part of its legendary appeal.