by Khagendramani Pradhan
Amidst the backdrop of picturesque and mighty Mt. Khanchan Dzonga refreshed by the gentle breeze of river Teesta brews the morning sip of Sikkim – the Temi tea. Spread over 180 hectares of gentle slope with altitude ranging from 4500 to 6316 feet, the Temi tea garden produces one of the finest orthodox tea that promises the appreciation of tea connoisseur.
The Temi Tea estate was established in 1969 during the erstwhile regime of Chogyal and the commercial production started in the year 1977. In the year 1974 Tea board was formed to govern the day to day functioning of the estate and later it went on to become the subsidiary of Industries Department under Sikkim government. Temi Tea which apart from providing direct employment to over four hundred labors and thirty personnel, also is a major employer in the Government sector.
The gentle slopes that originate from the Tendong hill range has loamy soils condition with slope of 30–50% that suits best for tea plantation and produces nearly 100 tons of tea annually. Although the quantity of produce may seem insignificant in terms of major tea producing estates, the quality and the flavor it produces has been able to win the heart of tea aficionados within India and the world.
The tea produced by the Temi Tea estate is packaged under many brand names like “Temi Tea” which is of the best quality consisting of pure tea golden flowery orange pekoe. The next in quality is the popular brand of ‘Sikkim Solja’ followed by ‘Mystique’ and ‘Kanchanjunga Tea’. It is also sold in the form of ‘Orthodox dust tea’. While nearly 70 percent of the produce is sold in public auction at Kolkata through its authorized broker, the rest is converted into retail packets and sold in the local market.
The geographical location and the young plantation supplemented by organic method of production have further added to the value and flavor of tea leaves produced from this estate. Temi Tea garden closely followed the guidelines issued by IMO, Switzerland and with the completion of observation period, Temi Tea Estate was certified 100 percent organic by IMO India, a member group of IMO Switzerland in 2008. In addition, it is also a HACCP certified estate as per ISO -22000 standard under Food Safety Management System ensuring finest of quality product reaching the market. It may be noted that Temi tea garden is also the recipient of All India Quality Award from Tea Board of India for the two consecutive years.
The conversion of entire production process from conventional to organic with inputs like bio-fertilizers and pesticides like vermin-compost manure, neem cakes and castor cakes, have not only opened bigger market in international market, but has also seen a surge in demand amongst the tourist visiting Sikkim. Nearly one hundred acres of forest land at its disposal amply supplies the bio-mass to the estate making it self-reliant for required inputs.
By abandoning the use of agro-chemical and adopting organic means of production, the Temi tea estate has not only curtailed the cost of production, but also has opened wider arena of market preferring organic produce free from harmful chemicals. The Temi Tea board boasts of coming to breakeven point and substantially contributing to the State exchequer.
While Germany, United Kingdom, America and Japan constitute the major buyer, efforts are on way to further diversify the product in view of growing demand for green teas including redesigning of more attractive packets for value addition. This apart, efforts are underway to source direct buyers in foreign market for tea produced in Sikkim. The Tea Board of late has started directly exporting small quantities of organic tea to Canada and Japan where it has been fetching comparatively competitive and attractive prices.
Though, the expansion of tea plantation has been thwarted due to non availability of suitable land, Temi tea estate has been offering assistance to small scale grower and producers by providing quality planting materials and other technical knowhow. The garden nursery produces some of the best clone planting material, which is distributed among the small tea growers’ cooperatives in the state.
Though Temi Tea has lived up to expectation of many tea connoisseurs, given the climatic condition in the estate, there still is scope for production of high value and high return finest tea leaves.