Every spring, tea lovers hold their collective breath in anticipation of a very special arrival. They eagerly await news of its appearance – intent on being among the first to stake their claim to it. What is it that these tea connoisseurs are so excited about? It’s the arrival of the coveted first flush Darjeeling: a tea produced from the first shoots of the Himalayan tea-growing season.


Over the past few weeks, the air has been buzzing with excitement here at Cup of Tea HQ. As a team of tea aficionados, it’s fair to say that we all fall into the collective breath-holding category. And now, at long last, we can exhale. That’s because we’ve just taken delivery of some of the season’s earliest first flush Darjeelings – and very pleased we are with them, too.


In honour of this special occasion, we’re going to trace the journey of a first flush Darjeeling tealeaf, from the tea plant to your cup.

 A home in the Himalayas

Darjeeling tea is grown in the verdant foothills of the Himalayas. Here, some 86 tea gardens sit many hundreds of feet above sea level, thriving in the region’s wet monsoon climate. These are gardens such as Barnesbeg, established in 1877 in the North of Darjeeling. It stretches along the River Rangeet, and boasts fabulous views of the majestic Kanchenjunga range. Then there is the Singell tea estate, which rises up from the shores of the River Rinchintong. Set up in 1870, this garden grows and produces some of the purest teas on the market.

 Watching, waiting

Once the spring rains have passed, the managers of these estates have a very important job to do. They carefully monitor the weather, and the condition of the tea plants – judging just the right moment to start picking the newly grown tealeaves. And when that moment arrives, it’s time for the tea-pickers to start the meticulous task of plucking the top two leaves and bud from every plant.

 A painstaking transformation

Next, the freshly picked leaves are prepared for your cup. Here, again, the plantation manager draws on generations’ worth of expertise to produce a tea worthy of its acclaim. The leaves are carefully withered, rolled, fermented and dried – the manager overseeing their progress at every stage. Then, they are graded according to their quality and size, before being sent on the next stage of their journey.

 Let the voyage commence…

Once the teas are ready to leave the plantation, they are typically sent to Calcutta, where they are offered for sale at tea auctions. From here, the European-bound teas are usually flown to the historic tea ports of Bremen or Hamburg, before being transported to their second-to-last destination – in this case, our Somerset headquarters.


Traditionally, first flush Darjeeling teas were shipped in wooden tea boxes. Today, though, they are transported in palletised paper sacks, lined with aluminium to keep them dry and protect their delicate flavours.

 The final leg of the journey

With the prized first flush Darjeelings safely in our care, there is just one step that remains. And that, of course, is for you to buy your first flush Darjeeling tea from our online shop. If you’d like to snap up your share of this year’s first harvest, take a look at our Darjeeling Singell and Darjeeling Barnesbeg teas. Trust us, they were well worth the wait.


31st May 2012

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