Did you know that there is a tea which is cultivated in India, sold at a jaw dropping price of Rs.1800/kg?
Known as the ‘Champagne of teas’ it is cultivated and picked in Darjeeling, there are currently 87 tea estate which produce tea but only one, one of the world’s oldest tea factories, which makes this rare tea.
Named as ‘Silver Tips Imperial’ this Oolong variety of tea is picked by only expert pickers from Makaibari estate and the pre-condition is that it has to be picked on clear, full-moon nights only when the planets are said to be aligned to produce optimal harvest conditions.
The Makaibari tea estate was set up in 1859 – world’s oldest and first biodynamic tea farm. Unlike most farms that rely on the earth, soil and plants to dictate their harvest, Makaibari looks towards the heavens. It adheres to the rhythm of the planets and a celestial calendar to determine just the right time to pluck its tea leaves during the picking season from March to October.
On the first clear full moon night from mid-March to May (a period known as ‘first flush’), when the oceans are at high tide and the water levels in plants decrease, Makaibari’s farmers believe that the air’s high oxygen and energy levels combine to produce a tender, smoother tea-leaf taste. And so, once the sun begins to set, the estate’s workers prepare for a unique event that’s part spiritual, part ceremonial.
Silver Tips Imperial can only be picked four to five times during the season. Before each harvest, hundreds of Makaibari workers adorned in West Bengal dresses gather on the estate’s slopes just after dusk. As men beat hand drums, women dance and chant Vedic prayers for good fortune and protection under the light of the full moon. Onlookers light tallow torches fuelled by animal fat – not just to help the pickers see, but to help ward off wild leopards.
After 20:00 when the moon is at its brightest, some 80 to 100 specially trained tea-pickers take to the hills to quickly pluck two leaves and the bud from each Camellia sinensis plant and place them in a large woven basket strapped around their heads. If the sunlight touches the leaves, it is thought to alter the tea’s aroma and consistency, so workers must race to finish the harvest by midnight so that the plucked plants can be processed before dawn that following morning.
The flavor of this tea – a mix of mango and the frangipani flower to create an uplifting, anti-ageing effect, and as soon as some sip the light-golden blend, they feel completely reinvigorated. This smooth, elixir-like effect is what led buyers in the UK, US and Japan to pay $1,850 for a kg of the stuff during an especially powerful planetary alignment in 2014. In recent years, the brew has also cast a spell on Queen Elizabeth II, who received a packet of it as a gift from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was also sold at the FIFA World Cup in 2014.