One of the youngest tea gardens to catch the global attention in Darjeeling, this tea estate holds a lot of promise in its produce
The head office of the Giddapahar Tea Estate barely resembles the stately tea repertoire that one hears so much about in Darjeeling. It is more of a warm welcome to the Shaw household. I am greeted by Mr Shaw, father of the owner, Sudhanshu Shaw. A plate of sweets and tall glass of cool water is a welcome and heartening change from the scenery. It’s quite like home. “And it is,” says Sudhanshu Shaw while joining me at his family’s living room.
“Giddapahar is first and foremost, home.”
“My grandfather Prashali Ram Shaw had purchased this tea garden in 1888 and the factory came up in 1907. Till date we are one of the few remaining single estate tea gardens in Darjeeling and have complete control over our produce.”
Two cups of sparkling tea are brought in at this point, to elaborate the quality of the produce of the tea garden. I take a sip and nod my agreement. It is a delectable First Flush, a sip of Darjeeling in a cup.
“Unlike the more high-profile estates around Darjeeling, we have a limited attention from our global customers who have tried and tested our produce and who keep coming back for more. We have more time to work on our harvest,” Shaw says.
“Being a small tea garden, we have a keen focus on establishing a good rapport with our limited buyers and always deliver quality.”
After the tea break, I take permission to walk about the garden. I am warned about the incline. A young tea picker, Sunita, escorts me to the area where the most picking is being conducted. The garden employs nearly 150 tea pickers each year to harvest the choicest tea buds of the season.
Sunita has the practiced gait of a mountain deer as she races up the incline and pauses at every nook to turn and giggle at the sight of me catching my breath. She is among the few young tea pickers that one finds in Darjeeling today.
Most of the youth has moved to more profitable collared jobs in the plains.
Unlike the other tea plantations I had been to, Giddapahar tea garden has a very unconventional feel about it. The people are very warm and open to conversation. Needless to say I was soon picking up local chatter and learning more about the lives of the people who make Darjeeling tea a reality for thousands of tea lovers around the world.
While the world is busy discussing the future of Darjeeling and other traditional forms of tea, this family-owned tea plantations is taking sure and steady steps to retaining the very best in every harvest. And while there is very little time left at hand after a day’s work, the prospect of tea tourism is not completely lost.
“I find it very amusing that people present tea tourism as a glamorous business. It is not. In fact, it is really quite hard to achieve — specially when you want to do it well aesthetically,” shares Shaw. “If we take up a project for tea tourism on our garden, we will ensure that it does not interfere in any way with the day-to-day work of the garden. We will have a completely different set-up for it.”
“As of now, our future is the health of our tea bushes. They need to be cared for like children do. Any miscalculations on our part could mean unhappiness all around. The healthy bushes will give us a healthy future.”
(This article is written to provide on-location information about tea gardens to tea lovers. Reviews by the author are not sponsored by any tea garden).
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