Did you Know Darjeeling Black Tea is Actually an Oolong?

If you ask most people to name the world’s best black tea, they will tell you it is Darjeeling tea from India. These people are wrong. For one thing, there are several black teas from China that are better than anything you can find in India. The only reason Indian tea enjoys the reputation it does, is because of its ties to England and the fact that it has been supplying them with tea for so long. It is also a big marketing ploy.

None of that is what I’m getting at here, however. My point is that Darjeeling tea is not actually a black tea. Yes, the Darjeeling region produces all types of distinguished teas, including white tea, green tea and black tea, but the majority of the tea that comes from the area and the tea that we know as Darjeeling black tea is actually an oolong tea. The leaves are not fully oxidized and should thus not be considered a black tea. In fact, they are less oxidized than many of the actual oolong teas.

I have no idea how teas from this area became known as black tea. Perhaps this is simply what the English wanted and the Indians told them that’s what they were selling. They probably told them it was a different variety and the English realized it tasted better than black tea, because oolong tea generally does taste better than black, so they didn’t complain.

I have no idea if this theory is true, but if you’ve ever traveled to India you’ll know that it’s very possible. They will tell you anything you want to hear to try to get you to buy something and what they’re trying to sell you is, in almost every instance, a substandard product and the price for that product is at, a minimum, double what it should be. Usually it is much more.

I can definitely see them lying about the type of their tea simply to make the sale. Even today, much of the tea from this area is pretty terrible. There is some great tea coming from India, but most of it is horrible. I seen so many tea shops in the country selling teas to tourists but the tea leaves they sell are an abysmal quality. And you can bet they are not even really from the area they claim to be from. Fake tea is a huge problem in India.

Nevertheless, you’ll see the shops full of tourists paying 10 times the going rate for Darjeeling tea, while not even getting the actual real thing. This means that, in effect, they are actually paying close to 100 times the going rate for a sack full of twigs and a few disgusting leaves.

a cup of darjeeling teaI myself went to a lot of tea shops while in India, trying to find some decent tea leaves. I like drinking tea every day, but I could not stand the disgustingly sweet chai they sell in that country. I like to taste the tea, not the sugar. In fact, I don’t even consider India a tea drinking country, because they drown the tea flavor in sugar and spices. I suppose this makes sense, given the low quality of the tea leaves used, but it does not make them tea drinkers. It makes him sugar addicts and if you’ve tasted their desserts, you know I speak the truth. They are so sweet, I can’t even choke down one bite.

Eventually I did find a shop that had some decent white hair silver needle Darjeeling tea. Needless to say, it was nowhere near the quality you would get in China and it cost just as much. Nevertheless, I happily bought some, because, by this point, I was really missing my daily tea and it was clear this would definitely be my best option.

For some more info on Darjeeling tea, head to About.com.


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