With love, from Darjeeling
Dorje began as a conversation between friends about the decaying Darjeeling Tea industry, immediately after the lockdown last year. Our families had been in the Darjeeling Tea business and we had been noticing that for the last decade or so, a combination of factors such as climate change, political turmoil, mismanagement, a dampening export market, and exploitative middlemen, had been severely affecting the operations of these heritage gardens. But last year’s lockdown seemed to be the last straw.
India has 10,000 tea gardens. But only 87 of them are in and around Darjeeling, producing high quality teas known worldwide as “The Champagne of Teas.” While these teas are India’s pride, we realised that they are simply unaccessible, unavailable or unaffordable, for most Indians.
What was available on the shelves was neither organic, fresh, authentic, nor flavoursome. Even the new-age D2C companies that were trying to disrupt the market, had merely replaced the middlemen— neither were the gardens benefitting under their model, nor were the customer. We wanted to change that. Through our subscription model, we make the entire produce from the garden available to our customers. This does two things.
First, we curate a new and unique tea experience for the customer. Second, the tea garden no longer has to be dependent on multinationals, exporters, or retailers. By connecting customers directly to the garden, not only do the gardens benefit, but so do the customers. We feel that only a subscription model can save Selim Hill Tea Garden from complete collapse.
Moreover, by becoming a subscriber, you become a supporter of the garden, and the community that makes these fine teas. For every subscriber who joins, we work with the Selim Hill Collective to plant a tree in their name.
Both of us have an intimate connection with Selim Hill Tea Garden. Looking at the impact of the lockdown on the Darjeeling tea industry, we put our minds to coming up with a solution. And one year later, in the throes of the lockdown, here we are. We have both left our former jobs at investment banks and think tanks to come on-board Dorje and help steward a new, innovative, sustainable and just model. We hope that both our mission, as well as our teas are to your liking.
We are based out of Selim Hill Tea Estate, where we also work intimately with the Selim Hill Collective on giving back to the farm, and its people. If you’re ever in Darjeeling and would like to drop by our farms, get in touch with us at [email protected]
Ishaan and Sparsh
Darjeeling derives its name from the words Dorje (thunderbolt) and Ling (land): the land where the thunderbolt of Lord Indra—King of the Heavens, and God of Rain and Storms—fell.
Today there exist only 87 fabled tea gardens in this magical land of lightning, thunder and mist. For 200 years, Darjeeling has prepared tea in four seasonal “flushes.” However, almost all of these teas get exported. Dorje is currently working with Selim Hill Tea Garden in Darjeeling to make its entire produce exclusively available for Indian customers. Instead of blending, breaking, or bagging our teas, we believe in preserving the original taste of Darjeeling by offering only loose leaf teas!