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TEA GARDENS OF DARJEELING

THE INCEPTION:

According to records, the first commercial tea gardens planted out by the British tea interest were Tukvar, Steinthal and Aloobari tea estates. This was in 1852 and this entire plantation used seeds that were raised in the government nurseries.

Darjeeling was then only a sparsely populated hamlet which was being used as a hill resort by the army and some affluent people. Tea, being a labour intensive enterprise, required sufficient number of workers to plant, tend, pluck and finally manufacture the produce. For this, employment was offered to people from across the border of Nepal.

It appears that in 1866, Darjeeling had 39 gardens producing a total crop of 21,000 kilograms of tea. In 1870, the number of gardens increased to 56 to produce about 71,000 kgs of tea harvested from 4,400 hectares. During 1860-64, the Darjeeling Company was established with 4 gardens while the Darjeeling Consolidated Tea CO. dates back to 1896. By 1874, tea in Darjeeling was found to be a profitable venture and there were 113 gardens with approximately 6000 hectares. Some of the finest Darjeeling Tea Producing gardens are listed below:

 


Margarets Hope Darjeeling Tea Estate

Margarets Hope is a world famous name when it comes to Darjeeling Tea. Earlier known as Bara Ringtong, it was started in 1830 as a small plantation and became commercially viable in 1864 with China variety of plants. The current Margarets Hope Tea factory was set up in the year 1930 by Mr. John Taylor with Mr. Longsin’s help (a Chinese businessman).

The unusual name ‘Margaret’s Hope’ was given to the garden in 1927 by the then owner Mr. Cruikshank. His daughter, Margaret, enchanted by the beauty of this garden was deeply attached to the place. Before leaving for England, she promised to return but unfortunately died of a lethal tropical disease on board the ship, never to return. Thus in her memory, her father changed the name to Margaret’s Hope.

Badamtam Darjeeling Tea Estate

Badamtam Tea Estate was planted in 1861 by Christine Barnes having a century of heritage. Its name is said to have been derived from a Lepcha word, which meant a bamboo carrier. It is one of the most scenic gardens representing a magnificent view of Kanchenjunga. A calm and majestic, fourteen feet high bronze statue of the Buddha, sculpted by a renowned artist, poses like a guardian of peace over the vistas of tea bushes.

Badamtam teas are considered excellent Darjeeling teas known for its delicate and light China as well as brisk and bright Assam types. It boasts of modern management methods, state-of-the-art machineris, bio-dynamic processes and a reliable and a dedicated workforce that combine to contribute to garden's excellence.

Barnesbeg Darjeeling Tea Estate

This Darjeeling tea garden was originally planted by Christine Barnes in the year 1877. Its name was derived from Barnes’ bagh or garden. It is known for very good Darjeeling teas and has developed a certain mystique over the years. The deep faith and strong religious beliefs of the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities mingle as one in this garden.

One of the picturesque gardens facing the majestic peaks of Kanchenjunga, the garden enjoys balmy cool weather with little Rangeet river gushing down the valley. Well drained slopes and moderate climate bring out the best in the bushes. Its Assam bushes produces well styles teas with a brisk taste.

Castleton Darjeeling Tea Estate

Originally planted in 1885 by Dr. Charles Graham, the slopes of Castleton span Kurseong, Pankhabari and the Hill Card Roads. The name Castleton has been derived from a building that looked like a castle and still exists in Kurseong. This Castle (‘Bank Ghar’) belonged to a money lender who made the grandiose fort. The original name of this garden was Kumseri. The various sections of this gardens have not been given numbers but names such as Bhalu Khop (bear cave), Jim Basha (the erstwhile manager's domain), Dhobitar (washerman’s clothes line), Baseri (resting place).

Castleton’s teas are created from select and pure China bushes that are exquisite and delicate. The teas have rose like fragrance, golden like sun-spun amber and are most prized for their unique ‘muscatel’ comparable to sweet summer wines with intense fragrant top notes of musk.

Giddapahar Darjeeling Tea Estate

Giddapahar is located on a mountain just a short drive from Kurseong, The garden is situated at 4864 feet above sea level. The Estate is a small family owned Darjeeling tea estate. It’s also known as "Eagles Cliff" which is very close to Kurseong town. From the estate, one can view the magnificent site of the mountains, perfect for taking photographs.

The town even has a point known as "Eagles Craig", a tourist point from where the plains are exposed to the viewer in a gigantic form. Giddapahar is almost 100% covered with pure china tea bushes and has followed the legendary classic grade production of Darjeeling Teas. The tea from Giddapahar Estate is very delicate due to the lower temperatures and being covered by mist for much of the year. Teas had been planted and picked in orthodox way. Due to the temperature, the tea bushes from the estate were forced to grow slowly producing a fine bouquet with great aromatic quality and delicate floral smell.

Goomtee Darjeeling Tea Estate

Goomtee Tea Estate is a glorious garden located between Jungpana to the East and Castleton to the West. Mr. Henry Lennox, a British pioneer, was the first that planted the garden in 1899. It was taken over by another famous planter Mr. G. W. O’Brien. The ruling Rana family of Nepal purchased it from Mr. O’Brien after World War II. By the mid fifties, the garden management was taken over by Mr. Mahabir Prasad and the Kejriwal family.

Due to high demand of organic teas all over the world, the Majhua Division of Goomtee is presently in the 3rd and final year of conversion to Organic farming under the guidance and inspection of IMO/Switzerland, The tea is processed separately in the Goomtee Factory as per ISO 9001 and HACCP standards. Darjeeling Tea from Goomtee is processed in the traditional "Orthodox" way. Breeded and harvested on the high altitude of over 4500 ft combined with excellent harvesting methods, this had ensured quality of pure china tea leaf. The withered leaf is removed from the trough and loaded into rolling machines. The leaf is rolled under pressure resulting in release of natural juices that promote oxidation and pigmentation. The leaf is thinly spread in a cool, well ventilated room to slowly ferment. These distinguished teas are being marketed as “Muscatel Valley”, sold along with Goomtee teas.

Jungpana Darjeeling Tea Estate

Jungpana is a tiny estate nestled in the hills of the Darjeeling region. This beautiful garden is famous for the muscatel flavor of its teas. Originally planted by the British, the estate was passed into the royal hands of the Ranas of  Nepal, and is now owned by the Kejriwal family since 1953. The distinct flavor from this estate is a result of the micro-climate on the south side of the mountain where this estate is located. They use pure china bushes and manufacturing techniques, resulting an the finest example of richness in flavour and bouquet that Darjeeling teas are renowned for.

Jungpana is a garden of highest quality in Darjeeling, it enjoys the most unique micro climatic and soil conditions. Jungpana has remained as the the leading quality estate of Darjeeling. Prestigious outlets like Fortnum and Mason and Harrods in London, Mitsui Norraine of Japan and boutiques of Germany continue to patronize Jungpana. Jungpana is also favourite with some of the finest restaurants of Western Germany and its muscatel flavour. It is believed widely that Jungpana teas made it to the royal family of the U.K. We can brief it as a connoisseur's delight.

Puttabong Darjeeling Tea Estate

Puttabong is one of the first tea estates in the Darjeeling and covers over 22 kms ending at the little Rungeet river. Planted with Darjeeling clonal, chinery bushes and clonal tea stock especially to meet agro climatic conditions of the area, it produces good Darjeeling tea.

Thurbo Darjeeling Tea Estate

Thurbo is a very famous name when it comes to Darjeeling Tea. As with most Darjeeling tea gardens, there is a unique story behind its name whic is based on a historic event. The British set up a camp in the estate to invade Nepal. The word camp is known as 'Tombu' in local dialect and hence over the years the name has become Thurbo.

The hills and peaks of Nepal are visible from here as it is located in the shadow of the mighty Kanchenjunga. Small streams and rivulets mark its boundaries and the Mechi and Rangbang gurgle down to the plans with organge orchards and orchid farms lending an exotic charm to the tea. Thurbo's indigenous clonal teas have unique character, this combined with other 'jats' like P316 & AV2 grows matchless autumnal teas. The teas imbue a rare and delicate fragrance. Its China is bright and flavour and Assam hybrids round and sweet.

Arya Darjeeling Tea Estate

Arya Tea Estate, also known as ‘Sidrabong’ was named by a Buddhist monk in early 18th century and meant ‘Water Holy Fish’. This garden was established by Buddhist monks who developed and cultured different varieties of Chinese seeds at the time. Since the early years of its existence, these monks practiced Ayurveda medical science and the garden till today preserves the house where they used to live.

Ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent and practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine. To reach the garden can be hard for it is located in an average altitude of 1500 meters above sea level with 60 degrees average inclination. The plantation starts at an altitude of 1820 meters spreading down to 900 meters. 300 acres of land is cultivated under tea and used to produce about 90 MT. After the estate was fully certified as ‘ORGANIC’ by IMO Switzerland for the EU and USDA, this has resulted in the crop falling to 65 MT. The conversion to organic is in keeping with the management’s philosophy for safeguarding consumer health while offering a premium product as well as showing the Estates regard to the environment and their commitment to the community.

Gopaldhara Darjeeling Tea Estate

This Darjeeling tea garden was originally planted by Christine Barnes in the year 1877. Its name was derived from Barnes’ bagh or garden. It is known for very good Darjeeling teas and has developed a certain mystique over the years. The deep faith and strong religious beliefs of the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities mingle as one in this garden

One of the picturesque gardens facing the majestic peaks of Kanchenjunga, the garden enjoys balmy cool weather with little Rangeet river gushing down the valley. Well drained slopes and moderate climate bring out the best in the bushes. Its Assam bushes produces well styles teas with a brisk taste.

Lopchu Darjeeling Tea Estate

Lopchu is situated between Darjeeling and Teesta; produces tea that is instantly recognized by connoisseurs the world over for its fragrant leaf. Lopchu garden has about 226 acers under tea production and much of the tea gets exported to Germany and other European countries. 95% of the tea trees were originally transplanted from Yunnan Province in China..

Chinese bushes together with the unique climate in Darjeeling has given Lopchu a delicate muscatel flavour, a fine aroma that is known for soothing experience. Lopchu teas can be enjoyed not just when its hot but also cold

Okayti Darjeeling Tea Estate

Okayti Tea Estate is located in the Mirik valley of Darjeeling at an altitude ranging from 1770 mts to 2360 mts. Spread on 608 hectars of forest land, Okayti has a planted area of 208 hectars and can be approached by air through the airport of Bagdogra. Owned by Kumbhat family for generations, the garden which started in 1888, has one of the oldest tea factory in the region. Recently a new factory has been built employing the newest techniques of fermenting and drying the teas. 

Although Okayti is know world over, locally the estate is affectionately called by the name Rangdoo. Okayti is located on the banks of River Mechi which runs along the border Nepal. The estate employs about 700 employees from the local areas, including the Nepalese village of Antu, which is perched on the opposite banks of Mechi in Nepal. The estate is divided into upper and lower division and produces 140,000 kgs of tea, most of which is exported to US, Europe and Japan.

Phuguri Darjeeling Tea Estate

Phuguri, located in Mirik Valley, claims to produce one of the finest clonal in Darjeeling. It is also one of the largest tea producing gardens in Darjeeling with excess of 170,000 kgs and replaces its old tea bushes to the tune of 2% every year.

Rohini Darjeeling Tea Estate

Rohini has a chequered history. It had been closed for a long period of 30 years from 1962 to 1994 till the Saria family revived it and started replanting. Out of the 138 hectares, 108 hectares is young planted teas from 1994 onwards and have not attained maturity.

The garden is divided into four divisions. The lower division is called Jaberhat and is around 24 Hectares. The mid elevation divisions are called Kotidhara and Pailodhora. These two divisions together are around 76 Hectares and it produces very high quality teas. It has been planted with AV2 and T-78 clones mostly. Tukuriya is the highest division at an average elevation of 4400 FT and stretches right up to Kurseong town. This is mostly the old tea area which now today would be more than 100 years old. The entire garden is accessible by road except Pailodhora.

Sungma Darjeeling Tea Estate

Sungma is a famous Darjeeling garden producing some of the finest first and second flush teas. It contains mostly china hybrid and approximately 10% Darjeeling quality clones. The climatic conditions mostly results in a very delicate aroma and mellow liquor of tea.

Temi Darjeeling Tea Estate

Tea grown in Sikkim is famous by its brand name 'Temi Tea'. Temi Tea estate is located in Temi, South Sikkim and  is one of the best tea producing tea estate in the  country. It was  established  in  the  year 1969 with an estimated area of  437 acres. It employees a total number of 406 wokers and 43 staff members.  It   produces about 100 MT tea annually. During the year 1997-98 the production  figure of  Temi    Tea  garden  has  drastically improved by producing 1,16,000 Kgs. tea leaves which is the highest record  ever achieved till date. During this year a  total revenue of  Rs.  2.18 crores  was credited  to  the State  exchequer. Temi  tea  garden  received All  India Quality  Award ; from  Tea  Board  of  India  for  the  two consecutive years i.e. 1994 and 1995.                

The orthodox  variety  of  tea of  Temi Tea is very rich in flavour  and  has  high  export  potential,  which  is  only partially  tapped  thus  far. To its credit, Temi Tea fetches one  of  the  highest  prices  at  the  Kolkata  Tea Auction. Under  the  assistance  of  Temi  Tea  Board, tea growers society  like  Sang-Martam  Tea  Growers'  Cooperative Society  has  started  flourishing which will further increase the products. Efforts are underway to source direct buyers in foreign markets for Sikkim's tea and the field is open for investors  interested  in  increasing Sikkim's tea production capabilities. Temi Tea Garden, the only garden in Sikkim, will be fully organic by April 2008. The garden began its foray into organic conversion from April 2005 under the guidance of  Institute of Marketeology (IMO), a Switzerland based agency.

 Makaibari Darjeeling Tea Estate

Makaibari is located at Kurseong , land of the white orchid in Darjeeling, It is the world's first tea factory and was established in 1859. It is a pure organic tea garden. 90% of the teas produced in this garden is exported to Germany, USA & Japan. The climatic conditions and the continuous hard work of the management has resulted with some of the finest produced DARJEELING TEA.