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Socio-Political Factors and Climate Change – Important Concerns for Darjeeling Tea Industry

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Published on : Dec 03, 2015

The global population gradually shifting away from agriculture and climate change have emerged as major concerns for sustaining tea gardens in Darjeeling, home to the most exquisite amber-colored brew in India, says Jeff Koehler, a renowned American author. 

In his book, titled "Darjeeling: The History of the World's Greatest Tea" Jeff Koehler narrates the tale of origin of tea in Darjeeling, located at the heart of Eastern Himalayas, in north West Bengal, under the influence of British Raj. In his book, Koehler talks about the genesis of communities in the once isolated region that ultimately led to the foundation of the industry, which gradually headed towards its decline by the end of 20th century. 

Koehler pointed out that struggle for Gorkhaland or independent statehood for the Gorkha community, alongside labor and climate issues spurred the downfall of the once thriving industry. And then there were aspiration people. 

During an interview with a leading daily, Koehler said, aspirations come from the knowledge shared via television and education. Modern parents don’t want their children to spend their lives plucking tea, they rather want them to move out and achieve some more significantly in their lives. The aspiration to keep their children at bay from tea industry labor has acted as a significant cause contributing to the decline of the tea industry in Darjeeling. 

While it is true that the gardens in Darjeeling produce only a fraction of the total tea production in the world and in fact less than a percent of tea produced in India alone, yet the grade of tea from these gradually withering crop has a characteristic amber color, which makes it appear very bright when brewed, and flowery and delicate muscatel flavors, said Koehler. He went on further to say that the tea has a distinct flavor like that of peaches and apricots, and that tea from gardens of Darjeeling are still considered the best in the world. 

However, due to several economic factors, it will not be much time before this tea industry declines further.