Tribute teas were prepared for the emperors. To do that, the leaf plucked had to be of the finest type which were then shaped by the most skillful fingers of the artisans. It was this message that Austin Hodge carried during his first trip to India during March of 2015. His message was heard loud and clear by the Tea Board of India and Tea Research Association, resulting in an invitation being meted out to him to work for the Indian tea industry to improve the present scenario.
Austin visited Calcutta, Assam, Darjeeling, Dooars, Terai, Bihar and Nepal during his 20 day stay in the region. He learned from a large cross section of tea industry representatives – both small and large tea growers. He found time to study history by meeting the Singhpo tribe chief, and drew many conclusions about the India tea industry which do not form part of any written history so far – by the administration of India and Nepal, who are in the driving seats.
More and more tea travelers are visiting India and Nepal; their advent teaches us more about our own operations – on which we have been sleeping so far. Plucking standards is one such issue which has opened up now since we have recognised that tea bushes age and have to be replaced. The issue of terroir and planting material has started gaining currency and nearly every sample of tea needs an explanation as to its source and manufacturing patterns.
We have to change with changing times and have to keep pace. The visit from US Tea Growers – a group of people who are going to change the course of history – let us learn from them since America is going to be a big consumer of tea. The World Tea Expo is a big catalyst for this process; more interactions are needed to conform to their needs.
Images courtesy of Rajiv Lochan, Lochan Tea.