STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 5, Number 3

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30 STiR tea & coffee industry international / Issue 3, 2016 (June/July) By Jane Pettigrew DARJEELING, West Bengal Darjeeling tea, with its delicate fruity elegance and gentle hints of fresh mown grass, is one of the world's best-known and best-loved teas. And malty smooth Assams fill mugs and pots at millions of breakfast tables every day of the year. But as tea lovers sip these coveted specialty teas, they perhaps know nothing of the problems that have faced these two famous tea-growing origins during the past 50 or more years. They may have heard of Darjeeling's Ambootia Tea Estate but have no idea that owner Sanjay Bansal is buy- ing up sick gardens in both Darjeeling and Assam and introducing biodynamic farming methods in order to turn them around, bring them back to good health, and produce good quality tea while also concerning himself with the sustainability and well-being of the tea gardens, the workers, the livestock, the tea plants and the environment. Gradual decline The root of the problem facing today's failing tea gardens dates to the 1950s. After the Second World War, countries all around the world were realigning to face a new and very different future. Industries had to re-organize and redefine themselves as markets changed or disappeared. Companies that had churned out ammunitions and arms dur- ing the war years had to find new uses for their nitrogen and nitrate-based products and so, as agriculture expanded to feed a growing world population, they manufactured nitrogen-based fertilizers to support inefficient and struggling agricultural practices. At the same time in India, where 90% of the population depended on agriculture, the new socialist republic, established after independence, needed farming to expand and become more productive. The government subsidized agricultural inputs such as fertilisers, making India a large market for nitrogen-based agro-products, many of which found their way to Darjeeling. Ambootia Rescues Sick Tea Gardens With more and more tea gardens in Darjeeling and Assam becoming sick and unprofitable, Sanjay Bansal's organic and biodynamic Ambootia Group is working to revive and regenerate these valued Indian regions. Pluckers at Ambootia Tea Estate in Darjeeling, India Gathering tea seeds to plant new stock

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