This month we visited the Gielle Tea Estate, in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal, India. Established in the early 1850s with original China bushes, Gielle is a renowned plantation that is named after a small river located nearby - teas manufactured in Gielle are popular and sought after by connoisseurs across the world.
Darjeeling is a region of hills divided by seven river valleys, of which the Teesta and its tributary, the Rangeet, are the most important. Tea dominates the sometimes precipitous valley sides where it is planted between 600 - 2200 meters high. It is then overlooked by the indigenous forest above.
The most common misconception about Darjeeling is that it produces a high tea yield each year. In fact, the Darjeeling district makes around 8,000 tonnes each year, which is less than 1% of India’s total tea output. A commonly quoted figure is that four times as much Darjeeling tea is sold each year than is produced at Darjeeling. How? Some consumers have become accustomed to ‘Darjeeling blends’ that acknowledged non-Darjeeling provenance and are instead combined with the Darjeeling aroma and a fine body Assam instead. So tasting a true, single estate Darjeeling tea is quite a rare treat in our modern world.
Our Darjeeling Gielle is shaped by several factors at this renowned plantation. Elevation determines relative quality, with the plantations at the upper limits of the valley commanding the best price. Seasonality also plays a part, dictating the style and taste. Gielle has both factors in its favour, producing a wonderful high altitude Darjeeling with a quality first flush taste.
Location: Darjeeling District
Capital City: New Delhi
Coordinates: 27.0124° N, 88.4047° E
Elevation: 1600m above sea level
Soil type: Thin, mainly sandy
Season: September, October
Av temp: 32 °C
> Darjeeling tea is a Protected Geographical Indication from India.
> India is the World's largest producer and consumer of black tea.
> Tea consumption in India reached around 951m kg in 2015.
> Darjeeling is located in foothills of the Himalayan mountains.
> Darjeeling Himalayan railroad is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
> The town was under British rule for hundreds of years.