In 1935, W. Ukers wrote in All About Tea
"The most romantic and interesting tea district in all India, Darjeeling lies wedged between Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan - three forbidden kingdoms."
In 1998, the Spectrum Guide to India
said about Darjeeling -
"Darjeeling is the jewel in West Bengal's crown. Facing the mighty Himalayas and surrounded by coniferous-covered hills, Darjeeling is perched at a height of 2,134 metres (7,000 feet) in the shadow of the world's third-highest peak, Kanchenjunga.
A maze of steps and terraces, studded with exotic little bazaars, villas, forests and gardens, the town stands in the middle of the evergreen gardens that produce the world-famous Darjeeling tea."
Of all the tea growing districts in India, one of the world's most famous teas originates from Darjeeling, or Darjiling as found on a map of the area provided by India Times
web site. Darjeeling is a small resort town in the mountainous foothills of the Himalayas in northern India. Nearby is Kanchenjunga (meaning "Five Magnificent Snow Treasures"), which at 28,000 feet is the world's third tallest mountain rivaling its Himalayan neighbor, Mt. Everest. Darjeeling is located in the northwest part of the State of West Bengal, with Calcutta located 400 miles to the south. West Bengal is a narrow stretch of land extending northward up between Nepal to the west, China to the north and Bhutan to the east. The Dalai Lama, exiled leader of Tibet, makes Darjeeling his home.
On another religious note, though Buddhism is not the major religious force in India that it once was, its effect is still a part of India and is still a connection that India has with its neighbors. Darjeeling is one area where Buddhism is still practiced. Here can be found "... prayer wheels, village gates and monasteries in the Buddhism tradition. (though) Religious practice is usually mixed with Hindu ritual, magic, and popular beliefs." India: a country study.
ITG's book shop now offers a brand new book (2002) simply entitled, Darjeeling
Darjeeling, which derives its name from the Tibetan DORJE - LING meaning "place of the thunderbolt" (courtsey of The State of West Bengal
) is situated at between 6,500 and 7,000 feet above sea level. This mountainous region has a rather limited amount of cultivable land. Various estimates have placed the number of acres utilized for tea production between approximately 42,000 and 49,000 acres.
Information about the Darjeeling district provided by Poobong Tea Gardens states that;
"Today, there are 86 running gardens producing 'Darjeeling Tea' on a total area of 19,000 hectares (or 46,949 acres). The total production ranges from 10 to 11 million kilograms annually."
Despite the fact that Darjeeling tea is well known, because of this limited growing area, only about 3% of all of India's tea production is Darjeeling. The various tea gardens (as tea plantations are referred to in India) in Darjeeling range in altitude from around 2,000 feet up to as high as 10,000 feet! Many factors contribute to this tea's unique qualities with altitude being one of the most important. Different altitudes produce different teas. Usually, "... the higher it's grown, the better." Tea Lover's Treasury
. W. Ukers in, All About Tea
, states further that at 4,000 feet there occurs definite change in temperature and humidity with a distinct 'mist line' between 4,000 and 4,500 feet.
"The mountainous terrain in Darjeeling, in northern India, ... requires intricate patchworks of plantings that curve along mountain slopes." The finest teas are grown between 3,000 and 6,000 feet with "... the higher the elevation, the lighter and more flowery the tea". At this level the climate is relatively cooler which slows the growth rate of the tea. Slight differences in elevation can produce remarkable differences in the size and quality of leaf. Republic of Tea
The Tea Lover's Companion
also contributes that mountain slopes of 45 °'s are almost considered as flat, and that 60-70 °'s are pretty much the rule rather than the exception! The cool temperatures, air and soil quality, rainfall and sunshine are also important. The rainfall and sunshine can vary considerably from area to area and from growing season to growing season. The elusive 'perfect' combination of altitude, temperature, soil, air, rainfall and sunshine occasionally produces exceptional Darjeeling teas.