Darjeeling tea, renowned for its smooth and mellow taste and often referred to as the “Champagne of teas”, has recently received protected geographical indication (PGI) status by the European Union.
Darjeeling tea, famous for its luxurious quality and named after the city located in the mountains near the border with Nepal where it is grown, has fought for and won brand protection in Europe. Darjeeling tea growers, who already received a “geographical indication” or GI for their tea by the World Trade Organization in 2003, launched their campaign in Brussels in 2007 and now, in 2012, the Brussels regulators finally granted the tea PGI.
To receive the PGI status the entire product must be traditionally and at least partially manufactured (prepared, processed or produced) within the specific region and because of the place of manufacture acquire unique properties. A bottle of Cognac must come from the region around the French town of Cognac, Champagne from the area with the same name in France, Stilton from around the village in England and now a cup of Darjeeling tea will have to be made only from tea grown around Darjeeling. This is a big step for Darjeeling tea, but also for other non-EU products as the tea is only the seventh non-EU product to receive the PGI status (Columbian coffee and five Chinese products are the other six).
Competitors were tarnishing Darjeeling’s reputation by blending its tea with other teas while continuing to use the label Darjeeling. The EU has decided to enforce this designation by eliminating blended Darjeeling tea – often sold in the proportion of 51% Darjeeling and 49% other tea in the EU – over the next five years. Protecting the name Darjeeling is critical to maintaining the value of the tea and stop the tarnishing; the Darjeeling Tea Association’s brand protection campaign is heading to Japan and the US next.