Black tea is made from the leaves of a bush called Camellia sinensis. A process called oxidation turns the leaves from green to a dark brownish-black colour. Oxidation means the leaves are exposed to moist, oxygen-rich air. In India, black teas are produced in Assam, Darjeeling, Nilgiris and Kangra. North-eastern states like Meghalaya, Arunachal, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim are some of the recent entrants in the world of teas.
Assam tea is a black tea which is grown in Assam is known for its body, briskness, malty flavour, and strong bright colour. Assam teas are one of the most sought-after teas in the world, and they are often sold as "breakfast" teas. They are often served with milk or lemon. The state of Assam is the world's largest tea-growing region, lying on either side of the river Brahmaputra, and bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar. This tropical climate contributes to Assam's unique malty taste, a feature for which this tea is well-known.
Darjeeling tea is a tea which is grown in Darjeeling, a district situated in the foothills of Himalaya,located in the state of West Bengal. Darjeeling has gone on to become the world leader in producing highest quality tea, a position which it has proudly retained for well over a century. Darjeeling tea is known as the champagne of teas for its unique taste and aroma which can only be produced in Darjeeling hills. Darjeeling tea comes in different varieties and unique flavour that depends on the season (or flush) when the tea is harvested.
Spring or first flush Darjeeling black teas are harvested during the months of February to April. To preserve the spring flavour, the leaves are generally semi-oxidised. The black tea leaves appear golden in colour, unlike a typical black tea. And the liquor is light & clear and produces a light, floral and fresh aroma with mild briskness and astringency. During this season a lot of gardens produces Darjeeling Oolongs, which is also an another form of semi-fermented tea.
Summer or second flush Darjeeling black are harvested in the months of May to June. This is the tea that provides signature muscatel flavor and produces an amber and full bodied cup.
The Autumnal Flush happens during the months of October and November and the autumn black teas yields a finished tea with a rich copper-colored liquor that can be described as rich, full, nutty, and smooth in flavor.
Nepal, a new entrant in the world of tea has made a name for itself for producing teas similar to Darjeeling, as Nepal’s tea growing region borders Darjeeling in India and share
Meghalaya is also a new entrant which mostly cultivates the Darjeeling China variety tea bushes in the highland and Assam variety in the lowland. The highland Meghalaya black tea produces a distinct fruity and floral aroma; even though a new entrant, it is very high in demand since the production is very less.
Arunachal Pradesh, an eastern Himalayan state, sharing borders with China, is the fifth largest tea-growing state in India. A recent report says that the state with more small tea growers than big players has the potential of growing aromatic teas like Darjeeling. But most of the organic gardens which grew Assam variety on experimental basis back in the late 90s now produces some of the finest rare black teas equivalents to some of the finest gardens in Assam. They are bold, brisk, full-bodied like any other Assam tea with a distinct aroma.
Nilgiri, a well know tea growing region in the India after Assam and Darjeeling, grown in the southern portion of the Western Ghat mountains of Southern India. Nilgiri tea is named after the Nilgiris, or Blue Mountains, where it is grown at elevations ranging from 1,000 meters to 2,500 meters. The mountains get their name from the saxe-blue kurinji flower, which blooms once every 12 years. The region receives annual rainfall of 60 inches to 90 inches. The weather conditions provide Nilgiri teas with a characteristic briskness, exceptional fragrance and exquisite flavour. The liquor is dark, intensely aromatic, well-balanced, with a smooth rounded flavour.