Darjeeling Tea Grades
Darjeeling Tea is mostly produced with an orthodox method that keeps the leaves whole during the production. When Darjeeling Tea is sold, it is classified by size and quality.
- Choppy: contains many leaves of various sizes.
- Fannings: are small particles of tea leaves used almost exclusively in tea bags.
- Flowery: consists of large leaves, typically plucked in the second or third flush with an abundance of tips.
- Golden Flowery: includes very young tips or buds (usually golden in colour) that were picked early in the season.
- Tippy: includes an abundance of tips.
- SFTGFOP: Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (SFTGFOP) indicates that it contains many tips and are long and wiry in appearance. The tea liquor is lighter in color, but this depends on the Darjeeling tea season.
- FTGFOP: Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP).
- FTGBOP: Fine Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe (FTGBOP) Darjeeling Tea leaves are smaller in size and are graded in decreasing order of quality.
- TGBOP: Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe.
- FBOP: Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe.
- BOP: Broken Orange Pekoe.
- GFOF: Golden Flowery Orange Fannings (GFOF) Darjeeling Tea leaves are still smaller in size than the brokens and are graded in decreasing order of quality.
- GOF: Golden Orange Fannings.
- D: Dust
Darjeeling Tea Seasons
Cradled in the foothills of the snow covered and towering Himalayan range, this exclusively exquisite Darjeeling Tea is grown in Darjeeling at an altitude ranging from 750 to 2000 metres. The combination of the moist wet and cool climate, the rich fertile soil, the incessant rainfall and the gradually sloping terrain gives a matchless and unique “muscatel” flavour. The manifestation of the individual and distinct flavour comes out specifically during its growing tea season from the month of March to November each year.
FIRST FLUSH DARJEELING (Late February to mid April)
Spring is the season of life, reawakening and freshness. After cold, chilly and the dormant winter months, life takes a new lease in Darjeeling with the Darjeeling First Flush, and this is also apparent with the appearance of new tender shoots on the tea shrubs with its delicate, fragile and grey-green sheen on the leaves. The tea liquor is characterized by a light translucent color and a mild astringent flavor that impart a lively character to the tea. The distinctive feature of this “First Flush Darjeeling Tea” is a fragrant floral aroma and a bright lime-greenish eminence of infused leaves.
SECOND FLUSH DARJEELING (May to June)
The production of the world renowned “summer tea” or Second Flush Darjeeling Tea is produced from the month of May. The Second Flush Darjeeling results from the luscious, moist and juicy leaves characterized by very enticing facade with a turquoise, purplish bloom and a touch of shimmering shiny apex (buds). The infused tea leaves are more vivid in its color and appearance than that of spring. It is characterized by mature and a mellow brew. It is during this period that the famous “Darjeeling Muscatel" flavor becomes pronounced. This period expresses a full bodied aroma with its infused tea leaves of bright copper or purplish tinge.
MONSOON TEAS (July to September)
The “Monsoon Darjeeling Tea" forms the bulk of ‘breakfast blend’ for it has more colour and is much stronger in its brew and appearance. The teas picked during the rainy season are thought to hold too much water. Some tea connoisseurs have the habit of taking this tea with a little bit of milk added, but this is totally on personal likings.
AUTUMN FLUSH DARJEELING (October to November)
In the months of October and November the “Autumnal flush tea quality" makes its prominence felt. The tea liquor imparts a delicate, yet a silvery and glimmering character and the appearance lends a light brownish tinge or gentle copper glow. This Autumn Flush Darjeeling Tea has a delightfully distinct feature and taste completely differs from that of First Flush and the Second Flush teas. The infused tea leaves has a golden coppery hue with an aromatic and fresh fragrance.
From Tunderbolt Tea
What’s in matcha?
Matcha contains a relatively high stimulant content compared to other teas which gives us a refreshing energetic lift. This is also why a lot of people enjoy matcha in lieu of coffee first thing in the morning. Like all stimulants in Camellia sinensis, they are absorbed slower into the body and, in general, produce alertness and energy rather than the jitters. Although delicious, the general recommendation is one or two small (two or three-ounce) cups of matcha per day. As always, remember that stimulants impact individuals differently. Because the total leaf is consumed, higher levels of catechins and vitamins are also consumed so matcha has slightly higher levels of all that is good in green tea, especially the amino acid, L-theanine which not only provides alertness, it is the primary element that gives matcha its unique taste.
Part of the uniqueness of matcha is that it includes the entire leaf. For all other tea, no matter where it is grow and no matter how it is processed, one infuses tea leaves in water, discards the leaves and drinks only the tea-flavored water. In matcha, we drink leaf and water because it is brewed from a dried, powdered full leaf; we discard nothing. This, more than anything else, is why the flavor and the naturally-occurring elements are more intense and more healthful.
How does gyokuro become matcha?
In mid-April, the tea plants receive conscientious, even tender, care including being shaded with bamboo reed mats or tarp, gradually reducing the amount of sunlight allowed to reach the bushes. This is done for about 20 days to two months to help increase the levels and intensity of color and flavor of the very element that makes the gyokuro a deep hunter green, chlorophyll. (Some growers add increasing amounts of cover, from reed screens to rice straw, to reduce available sunlight, and some growers shade leaves once more, up to one month or longer.)
The plucking begins, usually on hachijuhachiya, the 88th day after the first day of spring (risshun), which varies slightly from year to year, but always arrives in early May. The tea leaves picked by hand. These harvested leaves are not rolled or shaped like other green tea leaves but steamed to prevent immediate oxidation and retain the green color. Steaming varies from processor to processor but is usually a mere 20 seconds or slightly longer. This step is always done within 12 to 20 hours of plucking.
The leaves are then gently air dried and cooled first by hand tossing then, in some areas, in a hoiro or brick oven to completely remove the moisture. What remains is called tencha. It is stored in large wooden boxes and refrigerated and processed as needed. To prepare these leaves to be matcha, the dried leaves are first graded and cleaned. All the stems, twigs and even the veins of the leaves are removed (usually by machines). When the leaves are even in size and in color. It is only then that the tencha is ready to segue into its final product, matcha.
Tencha is stone ground into the micro powder consistency of talcum. Stone grinding has been the key to fine matcha for more than eight centuries. Some manufacturers still use hand operated stone mills to manually grind the tencha; others use an automated stone mill. Both methods will provide a matcha that has a very fine texture and brilliant green color. The finest of these are used for traditional tea drinking; Ingredient or Café Grade matcha is made from lesser-quality leaves and it is ground by machines not quite as fine because it is used for matcha drinks like lattes where the delicacy of finer grades would be overwhelmed by the addition milk to the beverage.