Darjeeling tea, which usually refers to black tea produced in the Darjeeling district of northeast India, is one of the most well-known and highly-regarded types of tea in the world. However, the Darjeeling district itself is quite tiny, and there is a much larger band of regions at the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range with a similar climate. Many of these regions also produce tea, and the tea is in many respects similar to Darjeeling black tea.
This article explores some of the black teas produced in other Himalayan regions outside of the Darjeeling district. These regions include other districts and states of India, such as Sikkim and Jalpaiguri, as well as nearby regions in other countries, including Nepal and Bangladesh.
Other regions of India:
After Darjeeling, the next-best known tea growing region of India is Assam. Although Assam is geographically very close to Darjeeling, it is located at a lower altitude and has a markedly warmer climate with higher humidity but lower rainfall. These conditions, paired with the fact that the tea grown in Assam is produced from a different, large-leaf cultivar of the tea plant, results in tea with a vastly different character from Darjeeling tea.
The other high-altitude regions nearby, however, produce teas very similar to Darjeeling. Sikkim is the best-known of these regions, although it is probably still quite esoteric to anyone other than tea enthusiasts. Jalpaiguri, the district directly east of Darjeeling, is perhaps even more esoteric.
Neighboring regions of other countries:
The teas most similar to Darjeeling tea that are grown out of India are those grown in Nepal. Darjeeling actually shares a substantial border with Nepal, and the regions in which tea is grown in Nepal not only have essentially the same climate as in Darjeeling, but the traditions and culture of tea cultivation there are also very closely related. Although they are similar to Darjeeling teas, and are classified by the same system of flushes (first flush, second flush, autumnal flush, etc.) Nepalese black teas definitely have their own distinctive character to them and can be identified as such to the trained palate.
Bangladesh is also relatively near the Darjeeling district, and there are regions. Teas from Bangladesh, however, are not as widely available on the Western market, and many of them are also slightly less close in character and quality to those produced in Darjeeling. Nevertheless, this country does warrant mention.
Black teas produced in Darjeeling, India are among the most well-known of high-quality, loose-leaf black teas. However, there are other nearby regions, including Sikkim and Jalpaiguri in India, and outside of India, neighboring regions in Nepal, which produce similar teas. These teas have Darjeeling-like qualities, but also have their own unique characteristics and offer an interesting change of pace for curious enthusiasts of loose-leaf black tea.