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Darjeeling Oolong Tea – Oolong From The Darjeeling District of India
Darjeeling oolong tea refers to oolong tea which has been produced in the Darjeeling district of India. When people say “Darjeeling tea”, the name “Darjeeling” refers to a specific sub-region of India, located in the northeast of the country, at a relatively high altitude, at the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. Darjeeling has a strong reputation for producing some of the highest-quality teas in the world, particularly, black teas with a more delicate character. This region did not historically produce oolong teas, but as oolong has grown in popularity in recent years, the production of oolongs in Darjeeling has increased dramatically.
People tend to have strong opinions on oolongs originating from the Darjeeling district; some people love them, whereas others think they are not worth drinking. Personally, I can understand these opinions; I have sampled several of these teas and they are very different from any other teas I have ever tasted. If you enjoy sampling high-quality pure teas with novel and unique flavors, you may find Darjeeling oolongs very appealing. Even if you do not end up liking them, you will likely find the process of tasting them to be fascinating and mind-opening.
What is oolong tea?
Oolong tea is a specific type of tea which is often described as being intermediate between green tea and black tea. Oolong tea originated in China, and for years, was only produced there. Still, the bulk of oolong production is in China and Taiwan, with only tiny amounts occurring in other regions. The production of oolong is rather involved and complex relative to other teas, and regions outside of China have been slow to develop their own traditions and practices of oolong production.
Oolong tea is very diverse and is hard to generalize about. It ranges from very dark in color, like black tea, to very light, like green tea. Some of them are moderately to heavily roasted. Darjeeling oolongs are no exception to this rule: they span the full range of colors and flavors from ones more like green teas to ones as dark as or even darker than some black teas from the same region. Some are light and vegetal, whereas others are rich and savory.
Where can I buy Darjeeling oolong tea?
Darjeeling oolong tea remains a specialty item, and is not widely available. However, tea companies that specialize in Darjeeling tea often carry at least a few Darjeeling oolongs. Because it is an unusual specialty offering, Darjeeling oolong tends to only be available as single-harvest, single-estate teas. Sometimes it is only available in small, limited batches.
I cannot possibly list all the companies that sell Darjeeling oolongs, but I will say that I have personally sampled these teas from Upton Tea Imports, and also from Thunderbolt Tea, a company that focuses exclusively on teas from the Darjeeling district. Keep in mind that in many cases, a specific tea, from a specific harvest and tea garden or estate, may be available from a variety of different retailers. You can sometimes use this fact to shop around for a bargain, but more importantly, remember that the specific named estate or tea garden is more important than the brand or company you buy from, in terms of locating a tea that you like. In terms of estates, my favorite Darjeeling oolong was from Soureni estate.
Darjeeling oolong is a relative newcomer to the world of tea; it remains somewhat of a specialty item, and is typically only available in limited quantities and small batches. However, it may represent a good opportunity if you enjoy sampling new and interesting pure teas.
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