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DARJEELING TEA. A Journey between the real and the fake. How to identify it.

…This is a post I wrote a year ago, when some First Flush arrived from Darjeeling.
If You are interested in Darjeeling teas Cultivars, you can see here
Well, now a new harvest arrived, a Poobong EX1 First Flush SFTGFOP1.
I have also the date of the harvest: February 27, 2015.
Yesterday, we tried it… and a world appeared inside the Tester!
The very green and fresh leaves (organic, of course) are composed by the bud and the two leaves below. Fresh, floral and refreshing. Golden liquor / yellow lemon, this is the dominant feature of nearly all the First Flush collected before. Thin astringency, dense, malt and light spices. Now let’s try to understand some things about the classification of the Darjeeling teas.
You know, I’m Chinese, but this kind of first fruits make me crazy
When you buy a tea (any tea), it is good to know where it comes from, and also the type and the harvest of this tea. Usually (and it exclusively depends by the shop keeper) when you buy an Indian black tea, perhaps one coming from Darjeeling, along with the name “Darjeeling” (the geographical name of the production area) you will find a “strange” acronym like SFTGFOP or GFOP, FF or SF, or even nothing. I imagine that you are quite intrigued by these letters, so I will try to give you some information about it. Assuming that the Darjeeling is one of the most famous production areas of black tea (although lately there are also high quality green and white teas), you just have to understand if the purchased tea is really produced in that area!

Just think about that, according some recent statistics of the India Tea Board, in 2012 about 8500 tons of tea were produced in Darjeeling but 40,000 tons were sold! Practically, out of 5 kilos, just 1 kilo was an original Darjeeling tea and the rest was FALSE!

It is now some time that, to protect consumers and producers, the Tea Board Of India established a brand.

But it is not enough… Once we understood that tea we bought is really coming from the Darjeeling, we must understand what kind of tea is! As we already said, more information we have the better!

The Darjeeling includes 87 gardens protected by the brand and, moreover, all with a partial or total organic production. Therefore, it is essential to know the name of the garden the tea comes from… Without the name of the garden it comes from, a Darjeeling tea cannot exist. Consequently, a (branded) Darjeeling tea cannot be called just Darjeeling… it must be followed by a name, and the name must precisely indicate the garden: Castleton, Dooteriah, Puttabong, Margaret’ hope, Badamtan and many others … It is also nice (and important) to know where the tea is produced: altitude, proximity to lakes, rivers, soil composition, climate and so on… also to understand our taste! You would never buy a bottle of white wine without name, geographical indication and vintage year, right?


It is fundamentally important to know the harvest.

The original main harvests of the Darjeeling black tea are three:

  • First Flush, harvested in the Spring – FF
  • Second Flush, harvested in the Summer months – SF
  • Autumn Flush, harvested between September and October – AF
  • There is also a very special harvest between FF and SF called “in between”, but it is collected only under certain favorable conditions, and this tea is very valued…

So, if we bought our beautiful black Darjeeling tea of Poobong gardens, collected in the spring, perhaps in March, we will have a label like this: Darjeeling Poobong FF, and it is already something…


Let’s talk about the leaves, now. The general rule is that usually a “buds tea” is most precious than a “leaves tea”. But, you know, it is also important that leaves are not broken… The classification of the teas is in fact based on the leaves condition, and it starts from the concept of ORANGE PEKOE, the apical bud and the two leaves below.

  • There are 4 groups:

Whole Leaf with the following main sub-groups:

  • SFTGFOP – Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • FTGFOP – Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • TGFOP – Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • GFOP… FOP…

Broken Leaf with the following main sub-groups:

  • FTGBOP – Fine Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
  • TGBOP – Tippy Golden Broken Pekoe Or ange
  • FBOP – Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
  • BOP – Broken Orange Pekoe

Fannings with the following main sub-groups:

  • GFOF – Golden Flowery Orange Fannings
  • GOF – Golden Orange Fannings


It is obvious that the whole leaves (the first group) are higher quality leaves, the ones that really keep the true taste, the aroma and the history of the Darjeeling tea!
These are commonly called the “champagne of teas”…
The last two categories are normally used for flavored teas or for sachets of teas… basically, they are not so good!
So, back to the tea we just bought, if we add the group, that maybe is the most important group of the whole leaves, we have the Darjeeling Poobong FF SFTGFOP (1), and if at the end we find the number 1, we are talking about a really important tea, of a very high quality, a special tea… this tea.

But we have not finished, yet… Sometimes it happens that, next to the name, there are some strange acronyms (EX1, EX2 or DJ1, DJ2), what do they mean? It is a codification that makes us understand even when the harvests are collected: DJ1 is the first batch of 100kg, DJ2 is from 101 to 200 kg and so on… (On a blog I even found the DJ acronyms followed by the number indicating train stops running through the Darjeeling area) However EX1 and EX2 are produced before the DJ1 and are more valuable, unique and expensive…

So, let’s complete our tea, assuming that it was collected in late February, and it is part of the very first batch (so the first 10kg collected): Darjeeling EX1 Poobong FF SFTGFOP1
  • Darjeeling: Place of origin
  • EX1: Progression of the harvest, in this case it is between the First (!) and the 9kg collected…
  • Poobong: Name of the garden
  • FF: First Flush, the first harvest
  • SFTGFOP1: Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, whole leaf tea, the most precious, bud and leaves.
I hope your mind is clearer, now. For questions, thoughts and other things, do not hesitate to contact me… And, as usual, I recommend you to torture your favorite tea “supplier”, especially when you buy important and expensive “leaves”, it is your right!
Enjoy your tea!

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