The gold mine for the Indian tea industry – Darjeeling – has been stolen by the so-called “keepers of the hills.” They have robbed it with their own hands. It is unfortunate and saddening to see the crippled state of the tea industry in the hills now.
The whole world craves a good cup of Darjeeling tea, but the tea estates here are not able to generate enough money for their subsistence due to many factors which they are rightfully to be blamed for. This political fight for money – instead of statehood – is not their mistake.
The dying tea industry is struggling to keep its head above water so they do not drown. The timing and effect of this statehood appeal is being raised by only a very few mercenaries, but it has shattered the hopes of the struggling tea industry. Although the tea estates are out of the purview of the current strike, there is no proper attendance in the tea estates which do not have the power to send teas out of the hills nor do they have permission to bring in necessary supplies.
The situation is a mess! The tea industry is so-called “open,” but cannot run the way it needs to due to severe shortage of working hands. There is lack of innovation, proper marketing, and proper education on how to expand and innovate. In addition, there is also a shortage of funds to develop infrastructure and a lack of hygienic manufacturing and packing facilities. This combination of factors has become so burdensome on the industry that it cannot find a way out. Growing only organic will not help because it comes with a price tag of years to convert, miles of hoops to jump through, and an average 30% crop reduction.
The only hope left for this ailing industry is the development of the new model of speciality teas, where every farmer can contribute and every co-operative can produce the best teas. These are limited quantity but very high in quality. Every region will have their own speciality, so there will be no competition as each tea will be unique. We have to abandon the British segregation system of grades and standardization and move towards the single-tea/single region/single-farmer approach, where every grower’s production is unique and cannot be copied.
Let us hope that this Darjeeling jewel in the crown of the world tea industry has a soft corner that remains safe. We hope to find a way to crawl out of the current scenario.
Images provided by the author
Editor’s note: for over a week, protesters have all but shut down the tea industry – and all other trade – in the hills around Darjeeling. You can access a history and timeline of the conflict here.
A graduate from St. Pauls, Darjeeling, Ankit Lochan has tea in his veins. Starting his tea career at the ripe old age of 15, Ankit has developed a keen sense of the value of this local product. Having been trained at various tea estates in India, he has become the main tea sourcing brain for Surajmukhi Tea. Founded by Ankit Lochan, a tea master who started his tea career at a very early age, he has worked with a lot of tea companies worldwide in establishing various new tea projects. A renowned and well known tea entrepreneurs with a strong history in the Indian tea industry, Ankit Lochan has established Surajmukhi Tea with a vision of sharing Indian teas with the world, the way it was meant to be tasted, fresh and of the highest quality.
The strategic location at Siliguri gives us an edge over others since this place is the centre of tea growing areas of Assam, Dooars, Terai, Darjeeling and Dinajpur districts of North East India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Bangladesh. All 500 million kilos of tea produced in this area passes through this town and 100 million kilos is sold through the Siliguri Tea Auction, of which we are an operating member. The small tea growers movement has led to the establishment of scores of Bought Leaf Tea Factories (BLF), which in addition to single estate teas gives a wide spectrum of choices for a buyer, sourcing teas from this town.
Ankit Lochan has been actively involved with various worldwide projects like the development of Nespresso Tea Project (Nestle) in Switzerland, the development of RTDs in North America, the World Tea expo in Las Vegas, USA, the development of black tea culture in China, The setting of Indian style tea houses in Japan.
Surajmukhi Tea (formerly known as Lochan Sons) is a Darjeeling based tea company with the Magic Tea Brand and focuses on delivering the best Indian Teas to Tea Connoisseurs and whole whole-sellers worldwide.
Our aim at Lochan Sons is to reach out to all the tea lovers worldwide and arrange to deliver fresh, unique and special teas to them at their doorstep. It is our passion to share our Indian teas in their freshest and finest state so customers get the value for their money and enjoy every cup of tea the way it is meant to be…
Surajmukhi Tea through its website www.teainindia.com has been one of the most progressive and innovative tea company in serving our wholesale partners with a wide variety of Indian teas at the most reasonable prices.