Guwahati, Aug. 26: The planters of Assam are making a silent but strong entry into the world of white tea — considered to be a monopoly of the Chinese — after having bowled tea drinkers over with the flavours of their strong-bodied brew.
When Raj Barooah, a tea planter of Assam, took white tea from his garden in Jorhat for the first time to be exhibited at the Hong Kong International Food Fair, he knew there would be some resistance, but once people there tasted it, their impression would change.
White tea is the most expensive of all teas and its price ranges from Rs 8,000 to 12,000 per kg. It is produced mainly for export. Made only from the unopened buds and young leaves of the tea plant Camellia sinensis, its brew is light and delicate with a slightly sweet flavour.
It is finely plucked at an opportune moment, either at the start or at the end of the season and is the least processed of all teas.
“Initially, I had to cajole them to taste it. But once they tasted it, their impression changed,” said Barooah, the director of Aideobari Tea Estates (Pvt) Ltd, told The Telegraph.
The garden has just launched white tea under the brand name Rujani.
Barooah was part of an Assam government delegation under the directorate of tea, industries and commerce department, which participated in the Hong Kong International Food Fair from August 14-16.
“Assam white tea has its own place and I would like to take it forward,” he said, adding that the response has been good and is looking forward for some of the inquiries to bear fruit.
The production of white tea in the Northeast is nominal and is based on demand.
On the foothills of Bhutan, white tea produced at Doomni tea garden in Baksa district has made a name for itself.
“We have received a very encouraging response within the country and overseas. White tea production volume in the country shall always be limited. This is a speciality, within a speciality. Something like truffles, or a particularly great wine, or even saffron,” Gaurav Jalan, a senior official of Sublime Agro Ltd, which owns Doomni garden, said.
The garden makes 80kg of white tea.
On any plan of increasing production, he said such specialised manufactured product cannot be increased greatly without compromising quality. “We intend to increase nominally, but not like 200kg in three years,” he said.
Tara tea estate in Meghalaya, which sells white tea under the La Kyrsiew brand, has received an “overwhelming” response from its customers.
Of its total production of 2,200kg, it makes only 20-30kg of white tea.
“Some people regard our white teas as the best in the world,” an official of the garden said.
For Pijush Roy of Kamakhya Tea Trading, the only teashop in Guwahati, which sells white tea, it has been a happy affair till now.
“I started selling white tea from last year and have sold almost all what I have bought. There are some tea lovers locally who buy white tea, never mind the price,” he said.
The chairman and managing director of J. Thomas, Krishan Katyal, one of the country’s topmost tea tasters told The Telegraph, “White tea comes from the bud of the leaf. It is plucked before the scheduled opening of the bud.”
The liquor is clear and pale and the taste is fresh and light.
“There is a delicate sweetness with a lingering finish on the palate,” he said.