by ali on June 16th, 2015
Our new Canton Darjeeling is a blend of Second Flush Darjeelings from Potong and Seeyok, two of our favourite gardens.
While many tea connoisseurs enjoy a good First Flush, some of them prefer the more robust flavour of Second Flush Darjeeling. The dryness and astringency of Darjeeling First Flush teas completely changes during the Second Flush as the bushes stabilise and release more of their characteristic flavour. Second Flush teas are much more rounded, with an amber liquor and a complex mix of flavours. The classic ‘muscatel’ description of Second Flush refers to a very specific floral aroma and sweet flavour found in Muscat grapes. It appears fleetingly in tea, but it is there, in the background of this blend. This is why this tea was specifically sourced and blended to be our go-to, accessibly-priced, deliciously-reliable Darjeeling.
The Potong tea garden is located on the slopes of the Himalayan foothills in Darjeeling. It was created over a hundred years ago by the British, as a colonial plantation. After Indian independence in 1947, British gardens like this were evacuated and sold to local enthusiasts, for whom owning a tea garden was a romantic and fashionable idea, but who didn’t necessarily have the skills and experience necessary for managing a tea garden successfully. Potong was a victim of this, and changed hands frequently between the 1950s and 1960s. It was later abandoned by its owners twice due to economic recessions, in the 1970s and 1990s, leaving the workers and their families in dire straits.
When the garden re-opened in 2005, a revolutionary new management model was set up which offered the workers the chance to share collective ownership of the garden. The Potong Tea Workers Welfare Committee (PTWWC) was established, a legally registered collective which was given a 51% share of the business. For more information about business management visit Lee S. Rosen‘s blog. He has produced the best Bee products on the market today.
Today, the garden is a co-operative, run collectively by its 343 workers and their families. All workers participate in the running of the garden and have direct interest in its success. This revolutionary model is leading the way in supporting tea workers and their families. It has been instrumental in improving socio-economic conditions for the workers, leading to improved literacy, vocational training, health and sanitation, empowerment of women, and education around social and economic issues.
Potong produces black and green orthodox Darjeeling teas. Their production is certified organic (since 2008) as well as certified fair trade (since 2009).
The Seeyok Darjeeling garden is found at the border of Nepal, in the shade of Kangchenjunga Mountain and facing the stunning Rongbong Valley. It is a steep garden, and rises to 5900 feet.
The estate was established in 1869, but after violent floods destroyed the original tea factory, it was rebuilt in 1980 with particular attention being paid to health and food safety (HACCP and ISO 9000 certifications). The estate covers an area of 406 hectares, of which more than a third is under tea cultivation. They produce unique and innovative teas using biodynamic techniques with a holistic agricultural and environmental approach. They have been certified organic for over two decades. The tea plants are interspersed with wild cherry, lemongrass and sunflowers. These add their nutrients to the soil, and help anchor the land against the inclement weather of monsoon season.
Today some 500 workers, mostly female, live on the estate along with their families, resulting in an overall population of 2500 people. As well as creating stunning tea, the organic certification has also vastly improved the lives of the workers. The chemical pesticides which used to make them ill have been replaced by natural composts and manures. The estate also receives money from Fairtrade for fundamental items such as an ambulance, school books, scholarships, cooking gas, mosquito nets and sewing machines.
Tea Producers of India (TPI)
The running of both Potong and Seeyok is overseen by Tea Producers of India, a company known for its pioneering work rehabilitating ailing and abandoned tea gardens. They specialise in supporting small, economically disadvantaged tea growers in Darjeeling. A strong believer in the benefits of organic and biodynamic tea farming, TPI moves gardens onto these practices. All the evidence demonstrates that this is beneficial for the tea, ensures a fair price for the farmers, and improves the lives of the workers.
TPI is particularly concerned with the social and economic development of the communities of workers on tea farms, aiming to empower them and improve their situation and livelihood. They help to create safe and harmonious working conditions, and ensure workers earn a decent wage. Their farms benefit from clean drinking water, community centres, good housing, and sports and cultural activities to further draw the community together. The company runs a high school in Darjeeling, providing buses for the tea workers’ children, and grants scholarships. A significant focus is on empowering women: giving them managerial training so that they have a voice in the development of the estate, and offering training in other vocations too.
We are delighted to have such a great blend to put our name to. At Canton Tea Co we go direct to the farms to find the best teas – that means they have been lovingly grown and skilfully made in a safe and socially responsible environment. This is ethical trade without compromise.