Influence of altitude on tea flavor

darjeeling tea


It is a well-recognized fact that the composition and concentration of aroma compounds play a vital role in determining quality and valuation of Darjeeling tea.The peculiar characteristic ‘Darjeeling flavor’ helps the Darjeeling tea estates to fetch high prices and is a factor responsible for consequent well-being of the Darjeeling tea industry.

Studies have shown that there is a decrease in growth rate as altitude increases which results in lower yields at higher altitudes. Provided other environmental factors have been taken constant like planting material and soil. Slower growth rates at higher altitudes allow the tea plants additional time to develop more complex flavors.

Possible achievable yield quantity at various elevations is given in a tabular form below. The yield given is only for quality Darjeeling clones. It is possible to achieve higher yield with other planting material.


Altitude (Feet above mean sea level)

Achievable Cycle yield (Qtl/Hectare)
Low Up to 2500 1200
Medium 2500-4000 1000
High 4000-5500 8
Very High 5500-7000 6

It is practically possible to achieve 80% to 90% of the above cycle yield in their respective altitude.

Volatile Flavor Compounds present in tea is mainly responsible for tea flavor. It is also popularly known as VFC. As an example compounds called Geraniol, Linalol and Linalol Oxide (VFC II) is mainly responsible for the rosy flavor found in Darjeeling Tea. Darjeeling tea produced from higher altitude contains more VFC II making the flavor index higher than the tea grown in the plains. In Darjeeling Tea VFC II is upto 5 times more and total VFC is upto 3 times more than the tea grown in the plains.

Several factors influence VFC and the end product of tea quality. However, the knowledge of such attractive aroma and flavor is very little but it is well established that high altitude clubbed with peculiar agro-climatic conditions contributes substantially towards attaining high flavor in Darjeeling teas.

Tea flavor also depends on genetic factors of planting material. Bushes with small leaves possess more flavor than large tea leaves. Also within planting material multiplication of flavor with altitude is not consistent across all kinds. In some variety, increase in flavor if far some significant than others. A notable example is AV2. AV2 cultivar produced possibly the best teas at the highest elevation and on the lower elevation the teas are quite ordinary.

Therefore, altitude has great influence on tea flavor characteristics and quality.

Gopaldhara Tea Estate located in Mirik Valley, Darjeeling District has a large part of its tea area planted between 5500 ft to 7000 ft above Sea Level making it one of the highest elevated Tea Estate in the region. It has been planted with quality AV2 & 312 Tea to produce rare and exquisite teas. As altitude has influence on Tea Flavor, Tea produced from Gopaldhara is rich in flavor. Typical Darjeeling Flavor i.e. Muscatel Flavor is found abundant in Gopaldhara Teas.

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