Darjeeling Designer Teas

Champagne from the East now comes in different shapes and sizes!

Darjeeling Tea has always been treasured for its unique muscatel flavour. But some gardens have decided to add a little something extra to help sell their produce. Driven by cut-throat competition despite high demand, they have started creating designer tea to woo elite customers.

From the handcrafted Olympic Flame, which resembles a torch, to the pearl-shaped Dragon Pearl, which opens up into two leaves and a bud when dipped in hot water, designer tea is soon becoming the latest fad among connoisseurs across the globe. The latest marketing ploy seems to have far greater potential than earlier innovations like Green and White tea.

“Retailers in Germany have sold Olympic Flame for as much as Rs 25,000 per kg and the market for such tea is huge. We are already looking at producing 8,000-10,000 kg of such tea annually,” said Shiv K. Saria, the managing director of Gopaldhara Tea Estate.

The designer variety is not only eye-catching, but is also made of the finest quality Darjeeling Tea. For example, Dragon Pearl is intricately finger rolled and comes with a tinge of jasmine and mint flavours, which itself is a new experiment to go with the unique flavour of Darjeeling Tea.

Many tea gardens in Darjeeling have started producing designer tea, but most are catering only to foreign clients. “We are, however, looking at ways of making it available to domestic consumers and have just started retailing it accordingly,” said Saria, whose two others gardens — Avongrove and Rohini — are also specialising in designer tea.

Of course, such tea does not come cheap and market experts believe that retail prices in India will start from Rs 5,000 per kg onwards.

Saria can now look back with satisfaction at the time when he took the first big risk by buying scrap machines, worth Rs 5 lakh, to produce designer tea. “Now I expect to invest another Rs 15 lakh to increase the variety,” he says.

In fact, the Rohini tea estate, which had closed down earlier, has seen a complete change in fortune thanks to the new product. The three gardens conduct estimated business of around Rs 1 crore annually through designer tea alone.

While the concept is not entirely new — China has been specialising in designer tea for quite some time — it does speak volumes about the changing marketing trends in the Darjeeling tea industry, which, so far, relied solely on its unique flavour.

Vivek Chettri, The Telegraph, India