With lots of states breaking away from what had been the former USSR and regrouping as Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, the ensuing economic prosperity has made it possible for the middle class to enjoy Darjeeling teas, thus opening up yet another market for this highly prized commodity.
My own attention was drawn to this region by a new breed of IT professionals exemplified by Mili and Joseph from Bratislava, Slovakia, who market teas as Cajovy Dom. These teas are beautifully presented on the website. This past March, they travelled to Darjeeling and Nepal during the first flush season, but I waited until now to see their beautiful presentations on Facebook.
I use the term “new breed” because their burning desire and passion are driving the cash-strapped younger generation without seed money to market tea on an e-platform. Joseph and Mili have combined tea travels and tea education through their warm, cozy, and tastefully decorated tea room. Their tea presentations have drawn curious crowds of tea friends and enthusiasts to this predominantly coffee-drinking region. Thanks to Joseph and Mili, various teas from China, Japan, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal have started flowing into the bellies of the heavy meat eaters of Slovakia.
It was fascinating to watch as they travelled, photographed, tested, sourced, and documented their tea selections while I housed them for almost a month and helped them with their travel arrangements. By guiding them remotely through my contacts in this region, they began a new chapter in tea marketing by learning from experts such as Xavier Delmas, Kevin Gascoyne, Bill Waddington, Dan Robertson, and Austin Hodge to name a few.
Darjeeling was a land of warriors and wanderers long before the British set foot here, with small armies of Lepchas, Bhutias, Gurkhas, Mugals, and Bengolies roaming the land and fighting many battles in crude stone forts. It is almost impossible to trace the history of the area more than 200 years in the past. Much has changed in Darjeeling since the 1970s when Russia bought golden-tipped, low-withered cheap black teas. Now both the west and the modern east eagerly demand hardier silver-tipped greens and coppery blacks raised using organic practices.