On 27th June 2014, I revisited Jungpana, where I lived for about six months between October of 1992 to March of 1993. Along the journey with me was Xiao Juan, of China. Xiao Juan was very much interested in seeing this tea estate: first for its quality; and second for its remoteness. Jungpana is not connected by a road and its out division, Mahalderam. is about 10 kilometers’ walk through a thick virgin forest on the opposite ridge facing its location.
One has to climb almost 500 stairs to reach Jungpana factory from where the tea-growing area reaches the top of the ridge. The manager’s bungalow is situated on a beautiful knoll. A two kilometer ropeway spans the ridges, bringing leaf from its out division Mahalderam, along the way to the factory situated at Jungpana. They were two separate gardens until 1956, when Mahalderam’s factory was burned and the gardens were amalgamated into one.
Although I do not have full historic facts with exact dates and a timeline, it was very thrilling to walk up and meet all those old friends from over two decades ago. It was a very strong rain shower when we climbed down at noon to have lunch at Goomtee bungalow, and we were still fully soaked when we went on our way to Darjeeling.
Jungpana makes one of the best teas from Darjeeling and has not altered any of its orthodox ways of making teas. It is said that a particular positioning of the sun’s rays over Jungpana’s tea fields allows some extra flavour compounds in the leaf. Scientific analysis of these subtle differences is not yet complete, but the folklore goes on to justify the quality of the leaf produced.
Traditionally Jungpana owners have been very orthodox in their management styles. On-the-spot teamwork has very rarely been disturbed in their group, which includes Jungpana, Mahalderam, Goomtee, Narbada Majhua, and Mohan Majhua, all together producing about two hundred thousand kilos annually. Jungpana is acclaimed as one of the very best managed and operated estates in Darjeeling, and is one of the earliest recognized quality marks.
Images courtesy of the contributor.