Darjeeling Tea: Everything You Need to Know (and How to Make It Properly)

darjeeling tea leaves

Quick Look:

  • ORIGIN: India
  • TASTING NOTES: delicate, fruity, musky
  • STEEP TIME: 3 to 5 minutes
  • CAFFEINE METER: Moderate

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What is Darjeeling Tea?

Often called the “Champagne of teas”, Darjeeling tea hails from the foothills of the Himalayas in West Bengal, India.

Unlike most other Indian teas that use the Camellia sinensis var. assamica tea plant, black Darjeeling tea is made from the smaller, more aromatic, Chinese variety known as Camellia sinensis var. sinensis.

The unique qualities of Darjeeling Tea can be attributed to their high elevations and growing conditions of warm sun-filled days, cool nights, cloud mist, and just enough rainfall. 

Darjeeling tea is harvested by hand-picking the top two leaves or buds of young shoots and makes up less than one percent of all of India’s tea! 

How do you pronounce Darjeeling?

The proper way to pronounce Darjeeling is “daar-jee-luhng”.

What do you need to make Darjeeling tea?

Tea Scoop

This is the perfect tool to help you get the perfectly measured scoop of tea leaves every single time. You won’t regret adding this to your tea arsenal!

Electric Tea Kettle

An electric tea kettle with a temperature setting is a must-have brew gadget for tea drinkers! You can set the temperature to the degree for the perfect brew every time. This kettle is a favorite of ours. Or you can check out our full post on the best electric tea kettles.

Spring Water or Filtered Water

To get the best flavors from your tea, use high-quality water. Don’t use tap water or distilled water!

Tea Pot with Strainer

A teapot with a built-in strainer makes brewing tea so much easier when you’re using loose tea leaves. If you’re an avid tea drinker, you won’t regret buying this tea tool!

Loose Darjeeling Tea Leaves

Using loose tea leaves really will give you the best tea-drinking experience. By letting loose leaves steep in the boiled water, they have room to unfurl and release all of their natural aromas. If you can’t use loose leaves, a tea sachet is the next best thing, since they have more room than a traditional tea bag. These Darjeeling tea sachets are a great option.

Tea Cup

This one is up to you! Use whatever cup makes you happy! If you need some inspiration, check out some of our favorite drinkware.

How do you make Darjeeling tea properly?

To make the perfect cup of Darjeeling tea, you will want to use 1.5 teaspoons of tea leaves for each 8-ounce cup. If you don’t have loose-leaf tea, use 1 tea sachet or 1 tea bag.

Tea tip: if you want a stronger flavor, add more tea leaves rather than steeping them for a longer period of time. Most people don’t realize this, but steeping tea too long doesn’t increase the good flavors, it actually can make it more bitter.

Step 1: Pour your water into the tea kettle.

Use cold bottled spring water or cold filtered water. (Tea Tip: Do not use distilled water – this will negatively impact the taste). Make sure to pour some extra water to warm up your teapot or steeping vessel.

Step 2: Boil your water.

For an optimal flavor experience, bring the water to about 205°F. This is important, as the flavors will not fully develop if the water does not get hot enough. If you do not have an electric tea kettle with a temperature setting, just bring your kettle to a full boil, then remove it from the heat and let the water sit for a moment before steeping the tea.

Step 3: Warm up your teapot.

First, pour a bit of your boiled water into your teapot or steeping vessel and swirl it around for a few seconds to allow it to warm the vessel. Then you can discard this water in the sink. 

Step 4: Put your Darjeeling tea leaves into the teapot and add the rest of your hot water and then cover the pot.

Step 5: Steep your tea leaves for about 3 minutes.

Step 6: Strain your tea leaves.

You can save them for an additional steep. Good quality Darjeeling teas can be steeped twice.

While the first steep is best around 3 minutes, the second time it should be steeped for 5 minutes.

Step 7: Decant your infused tea into your teacup and enjoy!

While you can feel free to add milk and sweeteners to your personal taste, many feel that the delicate flavors of pure Darjeeling tea taste best without any additions. 

Tea Tips:

To best experience your Darjeeling tea, you want to give the tea leaves enough room to unfurl and work their flavorful magic!

For the most authentic Darjeeling tea experience, steep the leaves in a Gaiwan, which will allow you to fully appreciate the fragrant aromas.

The Gaiwan is a small traditional Chinese brewing vessel made of either porcelain or glass. Its use dates back to the Ming Dynasty and its name literally means “lid and bowl”.

Can you cold brew Darjeeling Tea?

Yes, you can definitely cold brew Darjeeling tea for a delicious and refreshing drink!

Making traditional iced tea with a tea as delicate as Darjeeling would result in a flavorless beverage, since the ice waters the tea down so much. 

But, cold brewing Darjeeling tea results in a flavorful and aromatic chilled beverage! While it does take a few hours to brew, the end result will be well worth the wait. 

Keep reading for the steps to Cold Brewing Darjeeling tea at home.

Did you know cold brewing is the best way to make iced tea? To learn all about it, check out our post on everything you need to know about cold brew.

Tea Tip: a First Flush Darjeeling tea will probably be best for your cold brew. 

How do you make cold brew Darjeeling Tea properly?

To cold brew Darjeeling tea, use 1.5 teaspoons of First Flush Darjeeling Tea Leaves for every 8 ounce cup of water.

STEP 1: Add your tea leaves to a pitcher with an infuser.

STEP 2: Pour room-temperature filtered water or spring water over the tea and stir gently.

STEP 3: Put your pitcher in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours

STEP 4: Strain the leaves, add milk and/or sweeteners to taste, and enjoy!

Dairy-Free Alternatives to Add to Darjeeling Tea

If you are lactose intolerant or just want a dairy-free option to use in your tea, we have some great substitutes for you:

Almond Milk:

This plant-based milk alternative will add a hint of nutty sweetness to your tea. There are different flavors and sweetened options, however, we prefer to stick with the original unsweetened version.

Oat Milk:

Derived from whole oats, this dairy-free milk will give your tea some creaminess with a neutral flavor. This one is a favorite of ours.

Coconut Milk:

Extracted from the grated pulp of mature coconuts, coconut milk will add a rich sweetness to your tea without any lactose! 

What does Darjeeling tea taste like?

Darjeeling tea is known to be lighter and less bitter than most other black teas, with tasting notes including delicate fruity, citrus, vegetal, and musky-sweet.

Darjeeling is harvested three times per year, and its flavors change slightly with each harvest or “flush”. 

First Flush Darjeeling (harvested in Spring) tastes delicate and fresh and is lighter in both leaf coloring and brewed tea coloring.

Second Flush Darjeeling (harvested in Summer) tastes more complex, mature, and fruity. This is where you can start to recognize the muscat flavors and see a darken golden tea in the cup.

Third “Fall” Flush Darjeeling (harvested in Autumn) boasts a deeper copper color, and a fruitier, more robust body.

How much caffeine is in Darjeeling tea?

On average, a cup of Darjeeling has about 50 mg of caffeine, about half as much as a cup of coffee.

As far as the tea spectrum goes, this is a moderate amount of caffeine content. 

It is less than other black tea, such as Assam. However, it is more than most green teas.

Because of this, Darjeeling tea is often preferred in the morning or early afternoon. 

What are some health benefits of drinking Darjeeling tea?

Darjeeling tea has many health benefits including antioxidants, antibacterial effects, support in weight loss, boosting heart, gut, and oral health, and more!

For the full summary, check out our post on the health benefits and possible side effects of Black tea.

Where can you find good quality Darjeeling tea?

There are several good-quality Darjeeling options you can try. Here are just a few options to get you started:

What is the best way to store Darjeeling tea?

When it comes to storing Darjeeling tea, there are a few important things you will want to avoid. These are air exposure, light exposure, moisture, heat, and strong odors. 

To keep your tea in its best and freshest condition, you will want to store it in a container that helps avoid the above-mentioned threats to your tea. 

The best containers are made of opaque materials with a tight seal.

Some good options include non-reactive metals, glazed ceramics, and non-leaching plastics.

Beware that while you may see wood tea storage options, they are not best for storing loose-leaf tea, as they can have their own odors that can alter the taste of your tea. 

Once you have your tea in its storage container, keep it in a cool, dark place. 

Here are some good options for storing your Darjeeling tea:

Looking for ways to organize your tea bags? Try these:

You want to make sure your tea will stay fresh as long as possible. To make sure you’re not making any common mistakes, be sure to check out our post on the best practices in tea storage!

We hope this guide helped you learn everything you need to know about Darjeeling tea and how to make it at home!

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