I found this nice little video hidden on Youtube. Some of fellow tea enthusiasts may have already viewed it, but if you haven’t then, its simply great. It showcases Makaibari Tea Estate and the only existing “Darjeeling Tea Rajah”, Mr. Rajah Banerjee, who has kept the tradition alive as it was in the British era. He still rides his horse when inspecting tea work in the fields and not to forget the old British outfit which fascinates a first timer. I am sort of used to seeing him so called ‘old fashioned’ hehe!http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6m979
My earlier Darjeeling tea posts had a crash down and even after taking pro help from the technical world, I was unable to retrieve it. Somebody had hacked the site and deleted all. Anyways, I had some copies with me in notepad and I am including some here.
I know I am a tea merchant selling Darjeeling Teas to my clients worldwide, but apart from being in the tea business, I am first and foremost a tea lover myself. Tea itself has been attached to my past, present and will be my future. Once a tea lover, always a tea lover. It’s an inner passion which follows like a shadow no matter where you go or how you live. It’s an unavoidable marvelous addiction’ which is praised by thousands of tea lovers and only a tea lover can understand what is in stock here. This time, I would like to focus on a particular tea thing – “when to buy First Flush Darjeeling Tea?”
Many tea connoisseurs have asked me a question – “when is the perfect time to buy First Flush Darjeelings?” It seems an easy question to answer and you may get easy answers from some, but when it comes to Darjeeling Tea the answer may prove to be a complicated and lengthy one.
I know tea connoisseurs spend hundreds of dollars to get their favorite teas and sometimes it’s frustrating to get what is unexpected. It’s the same grade, same flush and from the same garden, but the taste is not what you thought it to be. You might probably think that you have drained down your money, and you have, if you have bought a tea produced at a wrong time.
In Darjeeling, if you take the case of First Flush teas, the production starts during the month of February (end). If all things go well (timely rainfall etc.) then you will get the best qualities during the peak months. If you get a tea produced between end of February and mid April, then count yourself lucky – you will be sipping the top quality tea.
Now the notorious polity of tea and tea merchants start to play their part in the drama. As soon as mid-April hits the tea season some vendors over crowd the tea gardens to get their share – why? Because of the pricing factor – it will be at its minimum – why? The quality will go down.
Why will the tea quality go down?
After giving 4-5 flushes (here it means bearing new shoots – two leaves and a bud), the tea bushes need some rest in order to prepare for the next big tea season – Second Flush. During this period a particular green leaves on the tea bushes are in abundance – locally known as “Banji (Banjee) Patta ?. The word “Banji ? is pronounced as “baa-ji ? by the locals and also the tea garden people – its a Nepalese word. Its simply the new shoots (two leaves and a bud), but the bud would rather be missing and only the two leaves would be prominent – a banji shoot. These leaves are not known to give good quality teas as the initial shoots, and so does it degrade the quality. When produced, the grades are the same; just the leaves used are different. Yes, some high end teas which specifically require two leaves and a bud’ are not produced during this period. The whole banji period roughly lasts for about 15 – 30 days and the banji time’ differs by marginal number of days from a low altitude tea garden to a higher one. Altitude creates a slight difference in the Banji period. Hope you get some idea now.
Vendors sell the tea with the same grade name which is authentic, but the pricing isn’t. Some sell it at the initial pricing of teas available during early production period. So if you purchase this Banji produce, then you would have probably wasted your money trying to procure your favorite brew.
How to know that a vendor is not selling a Banji produce?
It’s a really hard question to answer, but will try my best. If you are a serious tea lover, then it is worthwhile to keep track of your vendor’s new tea’s proclamation date. If a vendor announces arrival of new teas during the month of February to mid April then your vendor has invested a lot in procuring the best teas – you should go for it provided the vendor is authentic and trust worthy. If a vendor says, new teas will be arriving during the end of April then your vendor is probably waiting for the prices to go down and this would definitely be a banji produce.
However, a case of concern is there when it comes to International vendors. Usually teas in bulk are sent in ships (containers) and can take about 1 to 2 months to reach a particular destination and you may think it’s a banji produce – It may not be, it may be a pure First Flush product. All you need to do is calculate the time of arrival with the time of production mentioned above. How long it will take to reach your country? – this info is your responsibility. Some vendors purchase directly from growers (and merchants like us who are based in Darjeeling) in small quantities and get their parcels delivered much faster through Post, courier etc. than the bulk shipments. These vendors are the best, but again the question of authenticity comes into play.
After taking some rest, the tea bushes are again ready to bloom to glory and this constitutes the Second Flush when the muscatel character is thought to be prominent. Gardens with high elevation produce good Second Flush teas.
“Trying my best to let tea connoisseurs procure their best teas”
If its Darjeeling Tea, I have always noticed that the media hypes it sky rocketing and plasters on the walls of local as well as International dailies.
Darjeeling as a place has always earned a reputation of being what the locals call “Lakshin” meaning place which is lucky and blessed by the Gods. There are two reasons for it – it’s a small place with an economy that is not overwhelming and still people can be seen clad in the most expensive and fashionable attires as compared to the rest of other Indian places with a similar economic background. I wonder how people manage to maintain this when their earnings are not up to the mark – God knows! Secondly, it is considered blessed by the Gods themselves with Mount Kanchendzonga smiling right on the face and this has provoked us all, local residents, to become and believe in something ‘supernatural’. Anways, what I meant to say is that whatever hardships Darjeeling faces, gets solved in no time. There is some political turmoil at the moment, and hopefully this will have a better path towards Darjeeling’s glory.
Now talking of ‘Lakshin’, take ‘First Flush Darjeeling Tea weather drama’ for instance – news roared with similar quotes as “Darjeeling tea hit by severe drought” and blah, blah – definitely this was a great concern for Darjeeling. Supply of drinking water to Darjeeling town was seriously cut down due to the reservoirs being on dry spell and the most important industry, namely, Darjeeling Tea was on the verge of turning into a total disaster due to rainless sky everyday for the past five months. But guess the Hindu ‘Rain God – Lord Indra’ just couldn’t bear the pain and blessed Darjeeling with the much needed rain.
Darjeeling still needs more rain for water supply to its citizens as well as for the famed First Flush tea and mystically everyday is turning out with light showers which is adequate enough to bear the new shoots and solve the drinking water problem.
Darjeeling Tea Lovers – nothing to fear now – we are having excellent First Flush 2009. Yes, the quantity will be low due to cut-short period in growth and production.
I pray that Darjeeling attains normalcy and every Darjeeling related issue gets solved soon.
After waiting for one-and-a-half years, India expects to get geographical indications (characteristics of a commodity peculiar to a specific growing region) of the famous Darjeeling tea registered with the European Commission (EC) in the next two months.
The Tea Board also hopes to wrap up registration of traders of the Darjeeling tea in the UK and Germany, where it is already protected under the GI norms, by April 2009.
GI identifies a product as originating from a region or locality in a territory, where a given quality, fame and other characteristic of the product are essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
“We have provided the online registration facility for traders, both from the UK and Germany. By April, the process may be over,” Tea Board Chairman, Mr Basudeb Banerjee said.
“We had also approached the EC in November 2007 to approve the GIs of the Darjeeling tea so that other European countries get to recognise them. I am optimistic of getting the permission in the next two months.”
However, the Board’s primary focus is on the registration of traders in the UK and Germany as both of them, among European countries are the major importers of the Darjeeling tea, Mr Banerjee added.
The grim attire which every tea garden in Darjeeling had worn was relieved today with some amount of rainfall. Apart from the tea industry’s worried look, each home in Darjeeling was suffering from acute water crisis.
All the homes in Darjeeling get its water supply from the reservoirs situated in Senchel, 10 km away from Darjeeling. Two reservoirs namely the North and South were almost empty and the natural resources or springs which fed it had begun to dry up due to insufficient rainfall. The South reservoir had almost dried up and the North only had about 8.7 feet of water when the actual figure of about 12 feet is necessary for adequate supply.
The Darjeeling Municipality was supplying water every 15-20 days to sustain the adverse situation. It had slowly compelled the residents to buy water brought from far away natural spring resources by tankers.
Darjeeling seemed clad in dust and the prevailing dry condition resembled the polluted Indian plains. I had chapped skin and had to use moisturizers to keep it going smooth
Hope today’s rain will solve the problem for a while, but we need more rain.
Darjeeling got the rain – what about Darjeeling tea production now?
Definitely, the production quantity of Darjeeling will be low when we take in consideration of the time period of each tea season. If the rain had occurred during the winter season then there would be more time and hence more production of teas before the “banji” period entered. Now there is less time for bulk tea production, but this does not mean low quality.
According to Mr. S. Roy (Manager, Arya Tea Estate) and Mr. Sagar Rawat (Manager, Goomtee Tea Estate) – The production condition is at its peak with perfect soil and atmospheric temperatures, humidity, sunlight etc. and the only needed ingredient needed was water (rain). Now since all the needed things are in place, they are of the view that they will have top quality First Flush teas, though the production is going to be low.
It rained today – all the tea gardens which received the holy sprinkle are going to do “full flushing” from Monday or Tuesday.
In short – Now the garden spirits are high though, Darjeeling Tea production will be low, but quality wise it will be high – After all Darjeeling Tea is not quantity but quality.
Well, it’s a fact that, Darjeeling hasn’t received any rain for the last 5 months or so and this will surely affect the production of Darjeeling Tea. After the dormant winter period, new flush commonly known as the First Flush season prevails and is one of the most sought after teas when it will have its full potential pertaining to its natural Darjeeling Tea fragrance.
The winter rains or the Christmas rain is an important cycle that is necessary for the new buds to bloom. Sadly, the nature gods seems to have forgotten to quench the hilly areas of Darjeeling. The weather is dry and there is no sign of rain. Some parts like Sukiapokri received some rainfall but is not enough.
Most of the tea gardens in Darjeeling are suffering and their bulk production is at a halt. Most of them who have irrigation facilities have covered about 50% or less in processing First Flush teas, but the remaining 50% is yet to be covered.
When does Darjeeling need rain now?
As soon as possible, because rains should have occurred from January-early March for the new flush to come up and if it doesn’t happen now then rains falling later on during the end of April will give to a rise in mixed flush which is neither first or second flush. What falls in between the First and second Flush is the “Banji” period which is considered to produce a tea which is not of good quality. This period is normally between end of April to first week of May. The second flush normally starts from the 3rd week of may. So in order to have a good output of First Flush teas Darjeeling needs rain as soon as possible.
Now comes the availability of Darjeeling teas – If we especially focus on this year’s First Flush Darjeeling tea – it will be not available easily because of very low production due to severe drought conditions. But not to worry, the advantage of us being here in Darjeeling will not make our Darjeeling tea lovers yearn for their first flush shares. We have already procured some teas from Arya etc. which are small tea gardens and that can be handled by irrigation purpose or simply by providing water supply to the tea bushes through the help of sprinklers.
So if you have been our customer or are willing to be one, there is nothing to worry about, you will get your share of top quality First Flush Darjeeling Teas. We are sourcing for more.
For you, “You will get your share!”
Welcome to my personal space on the web. Hi! This is Benoy, a guy who resides among the Himalayan hills of Darjeeling. This is a personal blog where I update everything personal - from my wake up time to the time I fall dead on the bed. I love Darjeeling Tea and photography - Though an amateur photographer with zero knowledge of the technicalities involved, I like the idea of capturing the angle which best portrays to my eyes. Enjoy your stay here! +Benoy Thapa
- Fire in Darjeeling April 19, 2012
- Darjeeling Silver Lining February 17, 2012
- A Misty Ride to a nearby Darjeeling village February 15, 2012
- Some Tea with Darjeeling Capitol Clock Tower smiling | Photo post February 5, 2012
- Fort Aguada, Goa, Sunset – lovely | Photo January 29, 2012
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