Meghalaya tea goes organic

Organic tag for Meghalaya tea 

The factory of Anderson tea estate in Meghalaya’s Ri Bhoi district. Picture by Andrew W. Lyngdoh
Guwahati, July 29: Meghalaya will soon have its own organic tea brand.
Meg, as the brand will be called, will be launched by the Meghalaya agriculture department from tea produced in its own farms at Umsning and Upper Shillong. This was stated in a report brought out by the department, which added that the brand should hit the market this year.
From the Durama brand, which is sold locally, to LaKyrsiew premium organic tea for niche customers in the UK, Meghalaya tea is on the way to having an identity of its own.
“Tea grown in Meghalaya has acquired a niche market and should develop a brand on its own,” former Meghalaya horticulture director C.. Rangad told The Telegraph.
In fact, the state’s topography helps plantation of two distinct types of teas. In its lower reaches towards the Assam border and in the Garo hills, high quality teas with rich flavour are produced, while in its central areas, with misty slopes ranging in altitude from 3,000-5,500 feet, excellent hill teas, similar to those grown in Darjeeling and Sikkim, are produced.
The total area under tea cultivation in the state is 1,684 hectares and the production in 2009-10 was 3,785 metric tonnes.
The scale of production, however, is small.
Tara tea estate, which sells tea under the LaKyrsiew brand, produces hardly 1,500-2,000kg a year, while being obsessed with quality.
The estate’s manager, R. Richmond, told The Telegraph, “We have to concentrate on maintaining high quality.” He said the company had been selling high-end tea to niche customers in the UK and was now looking for a market in Europe too.
“We make a blend of Darjeeling and Assam,” he said, adding that the future of Meghalaya tea was making teas for high-end customers.
A source said though the state had been offering help for tea cultivation, the fact that private entrepreneurs had gone ahead without financial help from the government is an indicator of the bright future of tea in Meghalaya.
With good scope for the future, the Tea Research Association will also open a branch at Umsning in Ri Bhoi district. The association’s secretary, Joydeep Phukan, said they would be opening a branch in Meghalaya as a part of the grant provided by the Centre for the Toklai Tea Research Centre centenary.
The association approached the state government in 2010 and after discussions and site visits, they were offered land at Umsning in Ri Bhoi district.
“Once the land is handed over to the association, it plans to have an office with a scientific officer as well as analytical lab for testing. The office will start in three months’ time,” he said.
“The association will give more emphasis on training small tea growers of Meghalaya and on exploring the potential for making Meghalaya tea more popular. Some of the teas produced in Meghalaya are considered to be high-end orthodox teas and with some amount of branding and organic production, Meghalaya has a good future in tea,” Phukan said.
Another brand of prominence is Anderson tea, produced by Anderson tea estate. The brand started in 2009 from its factory at Umran Dairy along the Guwahati-Shillong road in Ri Bhoi district.
The tea estate first procured seeds from Assam and plantation commenced in 1997. The areas under plantation included Umsning, Lailad, Umshohphria, Umtyngar and Umran Dairy, all in Ri Bhoi district.
The leaves were first plucked in 2002, which was followed by an increase in the area under plantation.
Anderson tea estate managing director Almeric Sohkhlet said Anderson tea was a blend of CTC and orthodox (Darjeeling) teas. “We have noticed that while production is less, demand is very high. We cannot even cater to the domestic market,” Sohkhlet said.
He said the company did not want to buy teas from the market to supplement the shortfall in supply, as that would negatively impact the quality.
Earlier on, the company had also exported its brand to Germany. “But now we have stopped supplying as we are unable to meet the demand,” Sohkhlet said.


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