So what makes Darjeeling so special?
There are many factors, but here are a few.
As I travel to India this week, stay tuned for more updates. I plan to visit 9 estates across the region, tasting the ‘First Flush’ harvest as I go.
In the 1840’s, the steady trade in tea from China faltered. China, a somewhat reluctant trading partner, had been bullied into accepting opium from the British East India Company, in exchange for tea, and violent exchanges (the “Opium Wars”) ensued. It became clear to the British that an alternative source needed to be found to satisfy our growing demand for tea.
As it happened, Camellia sinensis plants of the assamica variety were to be found growing naturally in India. However cultivating it in commercial volume proved less easy to achieve, so a strategy of planting both seeds and young plants from China was urgently pursued.
In fact, so desperate were the British to commercialise Indian production, that they even resorted to theft of thousands of Chinese tea plants, masterminded by Kew horticulturalist Robert Fortune. Fortune had identified that the region of Darjeeling had a climate and terroir perfectly suited to the growing of these Chinese plants, and so it was that this region was selected.
What makes Darjeeling so special? Find out in the next instalment….
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.
Robert Bell, Managing Director and fourth generation of the Bell family firm, visits Darjeeling next month for the early First Flush tea pickings.
“The Champagne of Teas”, is a Product of Denominated Origin. Such protected status means that it can only be cultivated, grown, produced, manufactured and processed in tea gardens in the District of Darjeeling in the State of West Bengal, India, grown on picturesque steep slopes up to 4000 m.
Robert will be visiting the tea gardens of Darjeeling, in the Himalayan foothills, in the second week of April and will be holding an exclusive Tasting Evening on his return. Avid tea aficionados may sample and learn more about the 2018 First Flush. Spaces will be limited so early booking is recommended.
In the countdown between now and Robert’s trip we will be running a series of blogs about the history and botany of First Flush. Stay tuned for these weekly instalments and to find out more about booking in to our exclusive Tasting Evening.
A classic Bell’s blend, the espresso strength Barista Number Six is on offer this week for only £4 per 250g. A blend of dark roast Arabica, dark roast Robusta and a medium roast Ethiopian. This strong brew will certainly set you for the day! Click here to buy Barista No 6 Espresso Roast
Perhaps you’ve had your quota of caffeine and would prefer an alternative? This week our caffeine-free Rooibos is on offer, naturally caffeine free and low in tannins. Normally £4 per 100g carton but only £3 this week. Order here Rooibos Loose Leaf Tea
Your wish is our command!
Decaffeinated Nespresso Compatible Capsules are now in stock!
A South American, Swiss-Washed Mellow Medium Roast Coffee to suit those who wish to limit their caffeine intake!
20 capsules £8!
The cold mornings are here and the evenings are definitely getting darker, why not relax with a cup of the tea mulled wine equivalent, Jaipur Winter Warmer? This week you can enjoy this delicious tea for £4! Jaipur Winter Warmer Tea
Alternatively, if this week you wish to try a new coffee, why not give our Mexican Finca Alamo a go? This fine Mexican medium roast has floral and honey flavour notes, with a characteristic sweetness. Enjoy for £9 per 250g! Mexican “Finca Alamo” Single Estate
A delicious light-medium roast, sweet and smooth Great Taste winning coffee now only £6 per 250g bag. Sealed in an air-tight sealed bag and ground to your required method or left as whole bean. Enjoy this wonderful coffee this week while it is on offer!
This light black tea from Yunnan Province in China is known for aiding digestion after a heavy meal and lowering cholesterol, try it now for £3 per packet.
Our Baby Geisha coffee has landed! Freshly roasted, this outstanding medium roast is suitable for Cafetiere and filter alike. Enjoying citrus and honey flavours, Baby Geisha is among the worlds finest. Sourced from the Berlina Estate, coffee from this estate regularly wins competitions both at the national and the international level. We have a very small batch of this delightful bean therefore supply will be limited. Order quickly to avoid disappointment!
This week’s coffee of the week is our popular Medium Roast, Komodo Dragon. With its intriguing name and smooth flavour, Komodo Dragon is a customer favourite from AeroPress to Cafetiere users. Even more enjoyable this week with £1 off per 250g.
Tea drinkers can also enjoy the Kenya Milima ‘Golden Tips’ for £5 this week. The large leaf tea requires a slightly longer brew time, but is well worth the wait!