India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tea, 95% of which is black tea. There are three tea growing regions. They are Darjeeling, Nilgiri and Assam. Most of the production is a combination of orthodox and rotorvane manufacture, but in Assam there is a shift to CTC (Cut Tear Curl) process to meet the demand from the tea bag market. Indian teas are classified similar to Sri Lankan (Ceylon) teas in that it was the British who established the industry and as such introduced such names as Broken orange pekoe (BOP), Orange Pekoe (OP), Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (FBOP), Fannings (Fng), Pekoe (P) etc. Anything smaller than an OP grade falls into the broken grades which literally means the leaves are broken into small pieces. Even though most of these grades are black teas, still there is differentiation according to the color, size, and the presence or absence of buds. Darjeeling teas are produced in the region called Darjeeling, situated in North India at the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. Darjeeling teas are regarded as the Champagne of teas, and have exceptional flavor at certain times of the year. The first pick and second pick of the new season is called First Flush and Second Flush respectively. First Flush teas are produced during April & May when the tea bushes have recovered from the dormant period of winter and Second Flush teas in May & June when the weather gets a little warmer. During winter months the tea bushes go into a state of dormancy and there is no growth and therefore no harvesting is possible. During the spring months the climate is dry and is conducive to production of quality teas with the famous Darjeeling flavor. First flush dry leaf is slightly greenish in color due to the low oxidization and makes a very light but extremely flavorful pale yellow cup. Second flush teas are more oxidized and the dry leaf is brownish and cup color is more like amber. In both types, leaves are harvested while still very tender, and by very controlled and skillful methods of manufacture, the inherent flavor is retained in the dry leaf, to be given out upon infusion. The best Darjeeling teas have a show of buds which have the most flavor and are seen as golden colored ‘tips’ among the black tea leaves. A common grade for a high quality Darjeeling is FTGFOP which stands for Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. As the season progresses, quality and flavor decreases due to the changing climate. Autumnal Darjeeling teas are produced around September/October when the climate again favors quality tea production but they do not have as much flavor as the spring teas. Not all Darjeeling teas have exceptional flavor. Tea leaves harvested and manufactured during the rainy season have very little quality and hardly any flavor. On the other hand, even a Fannings grade of Darjeeling tea produced during the flavor season will have some flavor. Darjeeling teas are only available in small quantities and this also is a reason for their demand and higher prices. Examples - Singbulli estate First & Second flush. Recommended brewing time is 4 minutes at 190/195 degrees for First flush and 5 minutes @ 200 degrees for Second flush. Darjeeling teas produced at other times can be brewed at 212 degrees. Assam teas are black teas and are produced in the Assam district in the North Eastern part of India. This region is very close to the Yunnan province of China and teas produced from old tea bushes are known to have a common ancestry. It is believed that the first tea bushes were discovered in the Yunnan province. Assam teas are renowned for their full body and dark color. Teas produced in Assam could be Orthodox type (traditional rolling method) or CTC (cut tear curl) method. In traditional whole leaf teas, there is a show of buds in the form of small golden colored tip and the leaves are quite large. In CTC teas, the black tea is very grainy akin to small pepper corns which is due to the curling action of the CTC machine. The smaller CTC teas are used in tea bags because it gives a strong tea and brews quickly. Assam teas are commonly used in Breakfast blends because of its robust taste and full bodied character. Example Khongea Estate TGFOP. Nilgiri - Located in South India, the high-grown black teas from Nilgiri (which means blue mountain) are well known for their flavor and consumed as single estate teas as well as in blends. We offer a large leaf Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP) from the famous Tiger Hill estate. It is mellow and flavorful.