Darjeeling has world’s most prized tea

Kolkata :Although many fans of Darjeeling tea attribute its unique flavour to voodoo farming, a new book says the farming methodology goes beyond taste and aims at striking an ecological harmony.

American travel writer Jeff Koehler who has come out with his new book “Darjeeling: A History of the World’s Greatest Tea” says it is really hard to gauge how voodoo or biodynamic farming actually affects the muscatel flavour of one of the world’s most prized tea.

“Taste might almost be secondary. Biodynamics is a holistic approach to farming that seeks more than just flavor. It is a way of creating an ecological harmony on the garden, a tight web that interlinks the soil, plants, animals, and those who live on the estates,” Koehler told PTI.

However he said there is no question that those who farm biodynamically treat their bushes with particular care and that is often reflected in the taste of the teas.

The author wonders whether biodynamic farming actually makes the taste better, as many believe it to be the secret behind the unmatchable taste.

“Does planting according to the moon’s orbit and the position of the constellations make a difference in that final judgement of a tea when it’s sipped from the cup? Does spraying the leaves with ground silica crystals that have been buried in cow horns give deeper muscatel flavours? A more nuanced body?,” he writes in the book published by Bloomsbury.

Makaibari tea garden’s manager and one-time owner Rajah Banerjee is a follower of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner who had devised this alternative form of farming.

Makaibari’s Silver Tips Imperial tea is plucked around full moon as it is believed that the moon and planets influence the growth of plants and its leaves.

According to the book only around 15 per cent of tea produced in the Darjeeling hills of West Bengal can be called “voodoo vintages”.

Considered the “champagne of tea”, produce from Darjeeling is known for its characteristic bright, amber-coloured brew and muscatel flavors – delicate and flowery, hinting of apricots and peaches.
“Here ecology, history, tradition, culture, and terrier come together to create a sublime product with an unduplicable essence,” the book says.

Koehler says he went on four backpacking tours around Africa and Asia where the fondest memories of many of the places he visited seem to include tea.

“Over the years since I have visited many of the world’s tea-producing areas but none ever managed to seduce or intrigue me like Darjeeling. I long wondered exactly how and why the tea grown there is, simply, the finest, and why it could not be replicated elsewhere,” he says.