Revisiting the Arya Darjeeling Tea Garden

In our continuing series on the various tea gardens producing those fabulous Darjeeling teas, we visit the Arya garden along with the 14 teas we have tried (so far) from those skilled tea masters. Some of these go back to 2009, but never fear, this garden has continued to improve and thrive.

About Ratings & Flushes

The ratings shown for these teas are part of the Orange Pekoe rating system used for Darjeeling and other teas in some countries.

  • “FTGFOP” = “Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe”
  • “SFTGFOP” = “Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe”
  • “1” = a step up in quality.
  • “CL” = a clonal tea, that is, a “vintage” tea plant was cloned.

Flushes are periods of growth and then harvest (exact dates vary by garden location and the weather). Abbreviations used in the photo descriptions:

  • 1F = First Flush (roughly early March thru late April)
  • 2F = Second Flush (roughly late May thru June)
  • AF = Autumn Flush (roughly early September thru October)

The Tea(s):

We have been privileged to try the teas shown here (all but one are from Thunderbolt Tea). Please click on each photo to see details.

About the Arya Tea Estate

Arya Tea Estate official site

Originally established by Buddhist monks in 1885 and called “Sidrabong,” the garden was renamed to “Arya.” The house where the monks lived is still there. The monk who founded the garden was enchanted by the natural beauty and the fresh breeze blowing. He was seeking a place to plant the seeds of the Chinese tea plant he had with him and decided this was it. Careful studies were done of the soil, weather, and even the topography to locate the garden where these conditions were just right. It paid off, since this garden began producing teas that set a high standard for Darjeeling tea. In fact, several are named after precious jewels: Ruby (Black Tea), Emerald (Green Tea), Pearl (White Tea), Diamond (Chunky Tips), and Topaz (Oolong).

Like other tea gardens in the area, Arya has its own factory. The current one was built in 1999 after the old one burned down. Also like many of these gardens, the roads leading up to them are tricky with gradients up to 45 degrees. Experienced drivers are needed, especially when conditions are slippery due to heavy rain.

From Bush to Market

  • Generations of women skilled in the right technique of plucking the right leaves harvest the flush (period of growth).
  • The leaves are spread across ‘withering troughs’. Air is forced up from under the leaves to aid withering. This prepares them for the rolling pressure.
  • Rolling breaks the leaf cells so the oxygen in the air can affect them.
  • The leaves are spread on fermenting beds and left for varying periods to alter the color of the leaf.
  • Then, the leaves go in a drying machine to stop fermentation and remove more moisture (but without scorching them).
  • Sorting machines sort the tea into different grades via wire meshes of various sizes (whole leaf, broken leaf, fannings, and dust) that are then packed in plywood chests,paper sacks, or consumer packs lined with aluminum foil.

The Vendors

The samples above came from these vendors (click on each logo to see details):

© 2016-2020 A.C. Cargill photos and text


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