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Darjeeling

Inside story: What is Darjeeling tea?

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Darjeeling tea, AKA the “Champagne of Teas” refers to tea grown in a tiny patch of land in West Bengal, in the foothills of the Himalayas. There are just 87 Darjeeling tea gardens in existence and they all produce a special black tea with a muscatel flavour. In recent years, some of these estates have started to produce Darjeeling oolong and green teas as well. It is thought that over 70% of teas that are marketed as “Darjeeling” are not in fact sourced from this district, so choose your brand carefully. Another issue to consider when you buy Darjeeling tea is the treatment of the tea pickers in the region. Most of the labourers on the Darjeeling tea estates are from the Nepali-speaking Gorkha ethnic minority. For decades, the industry has been plagued by claims that workers are paid a pittance, while the tea is sold for a king’s ransom.