Darjeeling is a district in the far north east of India, and was the first region of the Subcontinent to be cultivated with tea on a commercial scale. Bordering Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan, it lies south the Indian region of Sikkim, an odd-shaped ‘thumb’ of land that stretches north into the majestic and sacred Himalayas, the Sanskrit “house of snow” and Hindu holy source of life-giving water.
Climactically, the region is fed by the moist monsoon winds of the Bay of Bengal which quickly condense as they hit the Himalayas to the north west, to produce natural irrigation on a vast scale. Temperatures in the region range from the sub-tropical as low as 500m above sea level, to the arctic, as it rises quickly to a height of over 6000 metres, to include India’s highest, and the World’s third-highest mountain, Kanchenjunga.
Home to about 80 tea estates, the highest of which are about 2,300m above sea level, the Darjeeling tea-growing region covers an area of only 50,000 acres, about as large as Queen Elizabeth’s Balmoral estate.While it only produces about 1% of India’s total volume, it remains the flag bearer of all India’s teas, and sets the standard for all teas worldwide. In this blog I hope to share why this is, as I journey to Darjeeling to experience the First Flush harvest.