Although the original appeal of Darjeeling for the British was as a hill resort with easy access from the plains, inspired by their success in Assam they soon realized its potential for growing tea. Today, the Darjeeling tea industry continues to flourish, producing China Jat, China Hybrid and Hybrid Assam. A combination of factors, including altitude and sporadic rainfall, have resulted in a relatively small yield – only three percent of India’s total – but the delicate black tea produced here is considered to be one of the finest in the world. It is also some of the most expensive with varieties fetching more than ₹18,000 a kilo at auction. Grades such as Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP) or Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP) are determined by quality and length of leaf as it is withered, crushed, fermented and dried.

To watch the process for yourself, call in at the Happy Valley Tea Estate (80177 00700), a half-hour walk from Darjeeling off Lebong Cart Rd.

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