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Tea and Darjeeling are synonymous. Darjeeling Tea is world renowned for its flavor, which is unequalled by any other tea producing area, not only of India but also of the world. Connoisseurs all over the world have fancied and valued Darjeeling tea and compare it as "the Champagne of Tea."

The British planters in the early 40s of the 19th century started planting the China variety of tea, smuggled from China. Lands were made available on very nominal terms to the East India Company, on a lease basis for long period of above 90 years.

Horders of laborers were recruited from Nepal to work on the tea plantations. At the beginning, a few tea maikers were brought in from China to teach the art of tea making.

Nurseries of tea seeds were established in lebong and other places to distribute the plants. Fortunately for the initialy pioneering work of the hard British planters, and the suitable climate, this China variety of tea thrived easily. Tea requires a minimum of 50" to 60" of rainfall in a year, and for this, Darjeeling is well suited.

Darjeeling still manufactures using the original methods of tea manufacture known as the "Orthodox" tea manufacture, as against the "CTC" type of manufacture adopted in the plains. CTC stands for Curling, Tearing and Crushing. Less withering is given and crushing and tearing give dark liquoring quality of tea.

Basic Principles in Orthodox Manufacture
Green Leaf, which contains 78% to 80% moisture content when fresh is subjected to ivernight period of placement in airy, dry space in the factory, where oxidization of the moisture content can be done. This is nothing but evaporation of the moisture content, to the extent of 30% to 40% from the original state. This process is called withering.

The green leaf is placed 6-9 inches thick in a box-like frame of 70-80 feet long, about 5-6 feet wide and 3-4 feet high. There is a wire mesh fitted on the top portion of the box and a high velocity axial fan is placed at one end and started. Air pressure is forced into the box, subjecting the leaf to a very strong pressure of air by which comparitive uniform wither is achieved. This process is known as Withering Through.

After withering, when the leaf has become soft as opposed to the turgid green leaf in the original stage of freshness, the withered leaf is subject to the econd stage of manufacture called the Rolling. Here the rolling machines roll and press the withered leaf without breaking or cutting them. Rolling causes the cells inside the leaf to break causing the juices inside the leaf to be pressed out thereby laminating the outside surface. Normally two rolls of about 40 minute are given by varying pressure to express the juice. In between the rolls, the leaf is subjected to sifting in sifting machines which separates the corase leaves from the fine ones.

The third process is known as fermentation. The rolled leaf, now covered with the experssed juice and chemical constituents, is spread very thinly on clean and impervious trays or racks in a high humidity room. Here, the rolled leaf starts to develop the aroma, flavor and other qualities by bio-chemical reactions. After the development of required degree of"qualities," the fermented leaf must be dried immediately to stop further fermentation. Over fermentation or under-fermentation is harmful to the development of proper characer of tea. This is where the art in tea-making comes out.

The fermented leaf is put in big automatic dryers. The leaf is fed at one end and is spread on trays or conveyor belts that are constantly moving in the chamber. Dry heat is forced through the chamber at about 240-250 degrees farenheit. At the other end, the leaf is dropped as ready tea which now contains about 2%-3% moisture.

The last process is known as sorting. The sorting machines grade the leaves into various grades. These are mainly the Leaf Grade and the Broken Grades. Leaf Grades are long, wiry unbroken ones which are graded as:
The Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe or G.F.O.P

The brokens are graded as:
Golden Broken Orange Pekoe or G.B.O.P
Orange Fannings or O.F

Darjeeling tea is known all over the world, and even though tea is manufactured in many other countries and regions around the world, Darjeeling tea remains The Champagne Of Tea.

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