‘A Matter of Taste’ with Vir Sanghvi | Ep. 5 of Echoes
What follows is a short excerpt from Episode 5 of Echoes | Organised by the Selim Hill Collective and Dorje Teas.
August 27, 2022
Rajah Banerjee - Tell me Vir what is the terroir of the Darjeeling that makes it so outstanding and why you are you supporting it?
Vir Sanghvi - We make some very good things from the earth.
We grow them but we don't have very much that is world-class. Indian wine is now more drinkable than it used to be but no it's not world-class.
Indian coffee is much better than it used to be but no it's not world class. But when it comes to Indian Tea, Darjeeling is, in my humble opinion, the best tea in the world.
This is something we make that is just so much better than anything anybody else does.
It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that over the last decade or so if not longer, we've totally screwed it up.
We've thrown it away. We've not allowed Darjeeling Tea to get the importance it deserves.
We haven't given it the kind of importance it deserves abroad.
Even in India, we seem reluctant to talk about it and how wonderful it is. I did an article last year on the Darjeeling Tea and how amazing it was and various people who were apparently tea experts from all over India wrote to me.
Rajah Banerjee - You arrive at Darjeeling and you're in a tropical situation and an hours drive later up you're in a temperate situation a further two hours uphill I think you ventured out too you arrive that's alpine lactic. Nowhere in the world in the drive of three hours you're going to traverse the three major climatic zones of the world so what this actuates to is a variety of botanical diversity you're not going to get anywhere.
Vir Sanghvi - Tell us about the leaf style.
Rajah Banerjee - The tea is packed the moment it falls out of the dryer. No sorting, not touched by human hands.
Then it's packed in the factory itself and sent out as a subscription model with making the tea affordable the entire season’s four flushes.
Would you like to try the green now? See the difference and you get the chlorophyllic flavor which makes it more therapeutic.
Actually the Green and the Black Tea come from the same bush. Everything is the same excepting the process of manufacture.
Black Tea is fermented tea and Green Tea is unfermented, so the moment you pick it, you arrest the fermentation by either one of two processes either you steam it or you pan fry it.
Vir Sanghvi - Tell me why when you can make teas of this quality, is Darjeeling in trouble?
Rajah Banerjee - Well primarily, I told you about the archaic system of management.
Number two, the top soil is gone and all the owners are absentee landlords.
Thirdly dwindling prices, dwindling productivity. Now everybody has access to the mobile and hence the internet. So hopes, dreams, desires have gone completely topsy-turvy.
Nobody wants to pluck tea, nobody wants to sickle, nobody wants to get their hands and feet mucky with manure.
Sparsh Agarwal - I do feel that there has been a twin problem that has taken place. Darjeeling Tea Garden owners have gone to the public and proclaimed very proudly that only our first and our second flush, our spring and our summer harvests are worth drinking and everything else is nonsense.
Now Darjeeling is the only place in the world which produces tea in four harvests - spring, summer, monsoon and autumn. They have gone and claimed that our monsoon and our autumn harvest is not good to taste. It's just different to taste the character, the story, the legend, the aroma, the infusion is different but a monsoon flush tea which when you high - fire it, you roast it. it gives you a flavor which is what most of India actually is accustomed to. So what has happened is that the Darjeeling planters - they focus too much on exporting not realizing that India is the biggest market for Darjeeling Tea.
Hence we ultimately came to that subscription system where we thought that if a customer can give us the guarantee that they'll buy tea for the entire year we can give it to them at a discounted price.
Vir Sanghvi - There are parallels between what's happening to you and the french wine industry with the vineyards.
We still think of tea as something that comes in a packet, we don't know the difference between Orthodox and CTC.
We still kill the bloody thing by putting in too much milk and too much sugar.
While writing my Memoirs, I was fortified by many cups of Darjeeling Tea, so the Memoir owes a lot to Darjeeling Tea.
Sparsh Agarwal - Rishik Kapoor here is congratulating you on your memoir and he's asking you about how how do you view the use of Darjeeling Tea in cocktails or in food and whether you think that that could be a potentially interesting tool for the resurgence of Darjeeling Tea?
Vir Sanghvi - A lot of people are now making cocktails. One of India's greatest barman, he's making things with Darjeeling Tea.
He makes very interesting cocktails and that's nice but that's like saying will an espresso martini save the coffee industry?
Vir Sanghvi - For everybody watching, if you haven't had this.This (Dorje Teas) is amazing tea. Please have it. It's an endorsement and unasked for endorsement. But it comes from the heart.
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