The city of Siliguri in West Bengal, India – the main trading hub for Darjeeling tea – was host to the landmark, inaugural Indian Tea Forum from October 4-6, 2010. Organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry, the conference welcomed dignitaries and visitors from the tea industry in India and abroad. Prior to the conference, I gave a unique demonstration that involved a Chinese Gongfu tea ceremony modified for to use Darjeeling tea.
The lecture series included addresses by noted figures in the Indian tea industry, including:
Mr. Ram Agarwal – Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)
Mr. Basudev Banerjee – Chairman of the Tea Board of India
Mr. Sanjay Bansal – Chairman of the Darjeeling Tea Assocation and Ambootia Tea Estate
Mr. Ashok Bartacharjee – Finance Minister of West Bengal
Mr. K.K. Mittal – Former Chairman of CII
K.K. Mintri – Former Chairman of the Siliguri Tea Auction Committee
The interesting and varied lecture topics ranged from tea’s health effects and chemical constituents to marketing strategies, tea tourism, export potentials, production issues, and management. Ms. Dharlene Marie Fahl of the U.S. (another T Ching contributor) received a rousing response to her moving presentation on the value of using India’s colorful culture to promote tea. In addition, an historic mark was struck when Mr. Ashok Batra – Chairman and Managing Director of the venerable tea brokers J. Thomas – presided at the very last live tea auction. Finalists and winners (teas, that is) of the King and Queen of North Bengal Tea Contest were auctioned off, with proceeds benefiting the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. This marked the end of the 150-year-old “out-cry” system. The following morning, under the supervision of Chairman Mr. Gangadhar Nakipuria, the Siliguri Tea Auction held its first-ever 100% e-auction, ushering in a new era of tea trading. India is the first country to convert to an all-e-auction system.
Tea buyers and dealers were able to interact in the unique and open format. Display booths were set up adjacent to the conference room and all were invited to mingle freely at several receptions and banquets. To put theory into practice, the final day of the event included a visit to a tea garden for the opportunity to experience the entire production process. With the conclusion of this ground-breaking initiative, the world’s attention has turned to the Indian tea industry and the bar of expectation has definitely been set high for future such events.