Darjeeling Balasun (FF 2014) to start the morning.
This time last year: The many outfits of Mr. Rajah Banerjee, managing director of the Makaibari Tea Estate. Darjeeling, India. May 2013.
This time last year: I made my own tea. Top: leaves after the overnight wilt (separated in two piles, but same leaves). Note the handwritten label to identify my batch. Bottom: hand-rolling in the Makaibari factory. May 2013.
This time last year: Women plucking tea in the fields of Makaibari Estate, May 2013
This time last year (May 2013) I was in India. First Makaibari Estate, then a few days in Darjeeling town proper.
This is the Mahakal Temple on Observatory Hill in Darjeeling.
Four teas with a friend. Chinese Green in the Gaiwan, previously a Yunnan, 2nd Flush Darjeeling, and an Assam.
Hopes, and Homes, Crumbling on Indian Tea Plantations, from NYT.com.
An article reporting on working and living conditions in Assam, India, which produces some of the largest quantities of cheap black tea in the world. Conditions like this are likely much more common than known publicly.
It’s a stark contrast to my experience at Makaibari Estate in Darjeeling. which is well known for it’s reinvestment in it’s community and workers.
Tea pluckers, most of whom are elderly women, deserve great respect and support. Without them we would not have tea.
Pluckers in the fields at Makaibari, Darjeeling. May 2013.
Tea tasting cup set
These are standard tools for tea tasting. They’re most common for Indian teas but are often seen in other tea geographies around the world. The main cup with lid is used to brew the tea, then you set that sideways into bowl to pour. Afterwards you turn the main cup upside down quickly and the tea is thrown against the lid. Open and set back on top to reveal the leaves.
This was a gift from Benoy of Thunderbolt Teas while I was visiting Darjeeling. May 2013.
May 2013. Riding the Toy Train in Darjeeling. It was an exceptionally loud experience with the wheels squealing and the horn blaring through the tiny bends in the journey. Turn your volume up really loud to get the full experience.
Special eddition 1KG crate from Makaibari Tea Estate
In the past tea was shipped around the world in huge wood crates. They were branded with company names and logos and covered in customs and tariff details. Small versions of the crates exist too and these days are collectors items.
When I visited Makaibari in May 2013 the director, Rajah Banerjee, was kind enough to gift me a personalized 1KG size wood crate. It was built by the Makaiibari caprenter Santey Chettri.
During my time getting to know the team at Makaibari I also made a small batch of tea in the style of the famous Silver Tips Imperial. Rajah tasted it and declared “this shall be called Michaelangelo Tips!” The team made a custom stencil and painted it on one side.
This crate is made of wood with edges reinforced with tin. The interior is lined with a thin foil type paper. The nails were very rusty, signifying their age. It stands 9 inches tall by 8.5 inches wide.