THE SILVER TIPS STORY
Silver Tips Tea is the retail arm of Eco-Prima Tea, a wholesale tea import and trading company, in business since 1995. Silver Tips opened in 1999 as a small, independent Tea Room serving about 100 varieties of tea, homemade soups and salads; both familiar and creative toasted tea sandwiches; and our wildly popular, “Afternoon Tea” complete with sandwiches, cakes, scones, preserves and cream. Today the Tea Room has grown to become a popular meeting place for our customers and a source for the finest teas, not only in-store, but on-line and by mail-order as well.
My own roots to tea go back to my childhood in Darjeeling, India one of the tea capitals of the world and home of “the Champagne of Teas.” My sister and I attended boarding school at the foothills of the Himalayas, surrounded by lush tea plantations. After graduating college, I went to New York to work for the United Nations and then later became an executive for a large communications company. My sister, meanwhile, had married Rajah Banerjee, whose family owned the beautiful and vast Makaibari tea plantation. Thus began my own journey back to the path of Tea! Tea was now firmly rooted in my family’s past, present and future.
Over the years, I visited Makaibari numerous times and each time learned a little more about the flavorful beverage I had taken for granted during my childhood. I discovered how tea bushes were pruned to a certain height for optimal picking; how the women plucked the top two leaves and a bud; how the leaves were weighed, how the fresh green leaves miraculously became black tea; and how the teas were sorted and graded. I learned that no detail is too small to escape attention, even down to the meticulous hand-crafting of tea chests on the estate.
Decades ago, Makaibari became a pioneer in the tea industry. Ahead of their time, my sister and brother-in-law turned to organic and biodynamic farming. They returned two-thirds of their land back to sub-tropical forest, which improved the health of their soil, brought back teeming wildlife and improved the lives of the people who shared this ecological system with them. Their tea sold for the highest wholesale price, $400/kilo and other farmers both local and international began to try to emulate their methods. The Banerjees have lectured on biodynamic farming throughout the world.
Impressed by what I had seen and learned at Makaibari, I decided, in 1995, to market my family’s biodynamic tea. Soon this venture grew to include all kinds of teas from all over the world! I began to realize that this new work was a continuation of my desire to make the world a better place. It was an extension of my UN and corporate work, but on a gentler plane and at a more relaxed pace. I could now help struggling farmers sell their tea and help expand the markets for tea in the US and internationally. I could offer fair-trade teas whose surcharges went directly to the farmers who grew the crops.
As my wholesale business flourished, I wanted to see some of the direct results of my work by opening a local tea room. With over 150 varieties of tea, I could introduce non-tea drinkers to a whole new world of flavorful and fragrant beverages. Not only could they develop their tea palate but they could reap varied health benefits while enjoying their brew. And tea aficionados would at last have a place to either come to or order from ----a place where they would find expert advice and help in discovering new and exotic taste sensations while learning the optimal preparations for each variety.
These were my hopes in 1999 when I opened my tea room. But I had no idea that my ambitions would be realized so fully and that I would have so much fun getting to meet, advise and chat with my customers about tea and related matters.
Photo credit for some of our images go to Matt Monroe, photographer; Andrea Kurtz, photojournalist and Jean-luc Thuyssien, photojournalist .
Come visit us and share our love of Tea! You will soon see what makes Silver Tips unique:
- First, a team of people who are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and care about their customers and their teas!
- Second, the tea itself - fresh, seasonal, personally selected and directly sourced from the many corners of the world.
- Third, Makaibari, one of the great tea estates, is behind us and we will share with you, through photos and stories, the world of this ecological paradise. You’ll learn all about daily life on a tea plantation—its people, wildlife and various tea seasons. You can email us questions about the estate and Rajah Banerjee will personally answer your queries.
Visit us and see for yourself!