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Arya Ruby – crown jewel of Darjeeling

Darjeeling's most precious tea: Arya Ruby

After posting about a majestic tea from China, I thought it would be appropriate to write about one of my personal favourite teas in the world: Arya Ruby.

Those of you who have met me will know about my love for Darjeeling tea, specifically for first flush Darjeelings (those teas produced during the first harvest period of the year usually from Mid-February until April). The small district of Darjeeling at the foothills of the Himalayas produces some of the world’s best (and most expensive) teas during this time.

Arya Estate is a tea garden with long tradition

Arya Estate (arya is the Sanskrit word for ‘noble’ or ‘best’) is a relatively small tea garden located close to the town of Darjeeling. The estate cultivates tea at elevations ranging from 900 to more than 1800(!)m, making it one of the highest tea gardens in Darjeeling. An extremely steep and narrow access road give it the feeling of a remote destination, despite its proximity to Darjeeling town.
The tea garden has a long tradition dating back to the eighteenth century when a group of Buddhist monks established the garden. Arya is a fully certified organic tea garden and strongly committed to environmental sustainability (the estate boasts the first private hydro-power scheme in Asia!).

Being a small and organic tea garden, Arya’s focus has always been on producing artisan teas of exceptional quality. While the garden produces a range of outstanding specialty teas like pearl white tea (similar to the Chinese Dragon Pearls) and Darjeeling Oolong, no other tea represents Arya’s special status better than their flagship product – Arya Ruby.

Scarcity + Quality = Legend

The production of Arya Ruby is extremely limited. In fact, this year’s first flush production amounted to only 200kg (we were lucky enough to secure 2kg for our shop)! As Seth Godin pointed out in a post yesterday, scarcity can have a big effect on the desirability of a product. I think in the world of tea (and wine or whiskey, for example), the rarity of a product like Arya Ruby makes it legendary and adds a level of mystery. The fact that you are most likely unable to purchase Arya Ruby – even if you are willing to spend a lot of money on it (most shops have sold out of it already) – increases its legendary status.
But does the tea live up to its promise? You bet! I am pretty sure that it will exceed the expectations of most people. It has a uniqueness about it, an unusual and pronounced character that sets it apart from other teas of this region.

A first flush Darjeeling (black) tea that actually looks like a black tea

Darjeeling's most precious tea: Arya RubyArya Ruby stands out from the rest of Darjeeling first flush teas even at first glance. Not only are the leaves much bigger than your average Darjeeling leaf, the dry leaves actually look like you’re about to brew some black tea.
In recent years, the tendency in Darjeeling has been to produce more and more greenish looking, more oolong-like first flush teas. I think this development is based on a desire to maximize the floral notes which are very popular amongst first flush lovers. Not everyone welcomes this development, though, and this is a tea for those looking for a darker infusion.

When you first smell the dry leaves, the aroma hits you with a richness few teas possess in the dry leaf – hints of something almost earthy, mixed with floral and citrus notes.
The aroma of the wet leaves and infusion includes a host of yellow tropical fruit (think mango), some citrus and floral tones.
But of course, it is the taste that ultimately makes this tea a winner. Extremely smooth and with a much lower level of astringency than most other first flush Darjeelings, the infusion is full bodied, yet extremely refined and complex. The fruitiness of the aroma carries over into the flavour and adds a unique twist to this mellow tea.

A tea for special occasions

It should be clear by now that I love this tea. It’s one of the most rewarding teas out there for tea connoisseurs. But as with most exceptional treats, its rarity and sheer level of quality means a relatively high price. It’s definitely not a tea for everyday consumption, but a tea that demands a bit of time and attention to appreciate its character.

Pure luxury – the affordable way

At a price of around 85 cents per cup (based on the 100g price), Arya Ruby is definitely an affordable luxury. If you like to prepare your tea gong fu style, you’ll even find that this tea can go a long way…

First Flush Darjeeling tea ‘Arya Ruby‘ (organic) $54.80 / 100g (If you’d like to buy some, please visit our ordering page).

We have only a small stock and it won’t last very long; last time we had the Arya Ruby, it quickly sold out. So send us an email if you’re interested.

5 Responses to Arya Ruby – crown jewel of Darjeeling »»


  1. Comment by Bamboo Forest | 2008/07/16 at 11:36:47

    Curiously, do you gong fu your Darjeeling tea? I know that there are some tea connoisseur’s that do, and apparently Darjeeling performs well this way.

  2. Jo
    Comment by Jo | 2008/07/16 at 14:37:58

    Hi Bamboo Forest,
    I sometimes brew Darjeelings gong fu. It’s not my usual preparation for these teas and not all Darjeelings perform well this way. But I have gotten some amazing results from gong fu Darjeelings where I discovered subtleties I hadn’t noticed before. On the other hand, some Darjeelings seem to require the space of a large amount of water to really unfold their character (from my experience, most second flush DJ behave that way).
    I think it depends a lot on the tea. We always encourage customers to experiment with the preparation. Sometimes, uncommon preparation for a certain type of tea can produce very interesting results.

  3. CMT
    Comment by CMT | 2010/10/20 at 02:17:45

    Drinking Arya ruby tea as I type! Had to bring back some after tasting it in Darjeeling. Definitely the best tea I have ever tasted :)

  4. Jo
    Comment by Jo | 2010/10/22 at 19:11:47

    I agree. I hope I’ll manage to import some again next year.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks »»

  1. Pingback by Food and Beverage | 2011/07/22 at 12:41:56

    […] Re: Food and Beverage Originally Posted by juffur I love tea. Green tea being my favorite, but I also enjoy Earl Grey and some chai mixes. Lately I’ve been drinking Sencha Green Tea (Japanese). Reading a book while drinking tea is lovely. I also like Sencha a lot. However, I usually drink the cheap Chinese crap most of the time because it’s cheap, is better than water and I like the health benefits. I like having a hot beverage beside me all the time. Someday, when I have more money to spare, I’ll probably always keep a good supply of high-quality Sencha around. I also like Darjeeling tea a lot. Last year I decided to get a large quantity of Arya Ruby which is considered to be one of the finest (and rarest) teas in the world. It cost me an arm and leg, but it was worth it. And it lasted me a long time anyway (about a month, which is a hella long time for tea to last me considering that I drink, on average, about 1.5 to 2 liters of it everyday!). […]

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