This fragrant tea is so coveted globally that the market is rife with imitations
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Imitation is the best form of flattery and it certainly is so in the case of Darjeeling tea. Almost 40,000 tonne of this iconic tea is said to be consumed globally per year. However, the Tea Board of India claims that it produces only about 10,000 tonne a year.

To differentiate the real from the rest, the Board introduced a certification mark and logo which also makes it clear that the tea cannot be produced anywhere else in the world. Just like the gold old Assam chai – but that’s where the similarity ends and begins.

Distinct grains of difference
To begin with, the teas from Assam are called Camellia sinensis var. asssamica while the black teas from Darjeeling are classified as Camellia sinensis var. sinensis. The dry leaf of Assam tea is brown as opposed to Darjeeling's green leaf. Assamese teas are fully oxidised, unlike Darjeeling teas which are only semi-oxidised making them more similar in character to Oolong teas.

Assam teas are noted for their robust, malty flavor and are darker when brewed. On the other hand, there's no missing the fruity and floral, almost musky scent of Darjeeling tea that requires gentler brewing.

Medical benefits of Darjeeling tea
It is rich in antioxidants that combat free radicals, eliminate toxins and neutralise harmful chemicals during digestion.

As per the Journal of Medicinal Food, Darjeeling tea limits the production of H. pylori bacteria without harming the beneficial bacteria needed for gut integrity, thereby resulting in better overall gastric health.

Similarly, as per the Journal of Nutrition, it is a great option for those looking to shed the kilos. Not only is it low in calories, but it also contains enough caffeine to keep you pepped up, mentally alert and focused.

Research even suggests that drinking Darjeeling tea, which contains powerful antioxidant compounds called polyphenols, may provide neuro-protective effects on the brain and help prevent diseases like Parkinson's.

Fans of Darjeeling tea will have you know that none of the above cuts any ice with them. They drink the tea because it is like wine, a cultivated taste – and a fanatical one at that. "Unlike Assam chai, Darjeeling is fruity and nuanced," says Pallavi Barua, a true-blue Darjeeling tea fan. "Also, despite the charlatans on the market posing as Darjeeling, there's no mistaking the real Dareeling tea's muscatel aroma."

"We are a Darjeeling household through and through," grins Delhi-based Shanti Singh. "It is the perfect brew for Delhi’s cold winters. Besides, I adore the smell."

Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
Image Conceptualised by Sohail Joshi

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