Out of the blue, I was asked to accompany Sarah Scarborough of Republic of Tea, who is responsible for purchasing rare teas from India, to the Temi tea estate in Sikkim on November 10, 2011. The day following – the golden day of 11.11.11 – I was still reeling from the heavenly feelings to which I was exposed. The mighty Himalayas unfurled ahead of us for almost 200 kilometers on the journey from my home in Siliguri through Sevoke, Glenburn, Melli, Namchi, and Singtam to Gangtok and back.
We hurried through the rolling hills and ravines to catch the right light to shoot some good pictures of the Temi tea estate, the lone garden planted by Teddy Young in 1970s for the Sikkim government. Thereafter, tea planting was halted, as other cash crops brought greater returns for individual households.
Temi is situated in southern Sikkim, approximately 6,000 feet above mean sea level, facing west toward lofty mountains that drain into the Rungeet River, which ultimately merges into Teesta. All successful Darjeeling clones were experimentally planted there on a plot of about 500 acres and a modern conventional orthodox tea factory was erected to produce about 100,000 kilos of tea.
This lone garden has done so much good to the image of Sikkim that more tea planting should be done. However, the state government has yet to make any decision. Nepal followed suit and reaped the benefits and Bhutan has to think about it seriously now. This whole hilly belt from Dehradoon to Arunanchal – about a 2,000-kilometer stretch – is fit for tea plantations, which ultimately join the Kachin hills in Myanmar and Yunnan in China – maybe another 1,000 kilometers.
Is this an avatar of Darjeeling? The question haunts my mind. Let’s find the answer soon!
Yes, Temi is indeed a rare tea.