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- acclaimed book by Rajah Banerjee on Makaibari now available.
This beautifully produced book is a treasure for all fans of Makaibari. In addition to the coffee-table book with vivid pictures of the estate, its people and biodiversity in plants and species, it also includes the award-winning hour-long documentary "The Lord of Darjeeling" made by Xavier de Lauzanne, the renowned filmmaker from France. It captures the essence of Makaibari, the philosophy of its organic and biodynamic farming, the journey from Rajah's early days at Makaibari to his advocacy of sustainability. It chronicles the evolution of Makaibari.
By Madhur Singh
Best Cup of Tea
West Bengal, India
A fresh cuppa:Your morning beverage comes straight from the bush
If Darjeeling is the champagne of teas, Makaibari is the Krug or Henri Giraud. At the
677-hectare Makaibari Tea Estate nestled in the eastern Himalayas, you not only taste
the finest of its aromatic, amber brews, but experience tea as a way of life. Gurkha tea
workers host visitors in chalets attached to their own homes, which dot the seven villages
of the estate, situated roughly 1,400 m above sea level.
After a day's induction — with tea-tasting sessions and a guided tour of the factory
to see how luscious, freshly plucked leaves are processed into green, white,
oolong and black teas — visitors get some hands-on experience. Those who prefer to be in
the tea gardens can choose between planting tea bushes, plucking tea
("two leaves and a bud" is what you need to break off each time) and tending the nursery.
Those who enjoy more vigorous challenges can try milking cows or cleaning cattle sheds.
And at the end of a hard day, you relax with a home-cooked meal made with
locally grown organic produce, then drive home with a cuppa brewed from
leaves you plucked the previous day.
There's no TV, so after a fireside chat with your hosts — who will happily share folk tales,
folk songs and plantation lore — you'll probably turn in early, and that has an added bonus.
If you rise when the first sun rays touch the valley, you stand a good chance of sighting
exotic Himalayan birds like the pied hornbill and the sultan tit. If you're very lucky,
you may even spot a leopard or two before hiking back to your hosts for that tantalizing
first brew of the day. Not a tea lover? You will be at Makaibari.
Featured in THE SUNDAY NEW YORK TIMES, October 14, 2007:
"HIGH TEA, INDIA STYLE"
Enjoy all our Makaibari teas!
Makaibari (“Corn Fields”) is the oldest garden in Darjeeling, in North East India.
Established in 1859, it extends over 1575 acres of hills, valleys and forests at the foothills
of the fabled Himalayan Mountains. Over 4500 feet in altitude, this tea garden is the jewel
in what is called the Golden Mile of the most famous tea growing region in the world.
It is still farmed by the original founding family. Rajah Banerjee, the current owner,
is the 4th generation scion of this tea dynasty.
Rajah inherited a tea estate that was conventionally grown. He painstakingly evolved it
to organic and then biodynamic agricultural standards. His was the first garden to be
certified Fair Trade in the world, the first to appoint women to supervisory positions
– unheard of in the traditional male dominant culture - and the first to market
Darjeelings Greens, Oolongs and Silver Tips. It was already renowned for its classic Muscatels.
Makaibari is an idealistic, inspiring plantation. Imagine a place surrounded by mountains
and valleys, where one thousand acres of forest thrive, where leopards and panthers live,
where the hornbill nests, where seven villages live in harmony, growing the finest tea in the
world. This is Makaibari. It is the proud caretaker of wild life and a diversity of fauna and flora.
It is the advocate of sustainable agriculture and a destination for students, sightseers,
tea devotees and all those seeking the pure air of the mountains and the simplicity of its life.
In tea annals, Makaibari commands a mystique, a higher sense of purpose, a deeper complexity
in its tea with no short cuts, an emphasis on quality and true authenticity.
Here's what Matt Gross wrote in The New York Times
on October 14, 2007:"....Makaibari remains a family operation, run by Banerjee's great-grandson Swaraj -
better known as Rajah.
Rajah is a Darjeeling legend: He's arguably done more for Darjeeling tea than
anyone else in the district. Back in 1988, he took the estate organic;
four years later, it was fully biodynamic, the first in the world.
Today, it produces the most expensive brew in Darjeeling, a "muscatel"
that sold for 50,000 rupees a kilogram (about $555 a pound, at recent exchange
rates of around 41 rupees to the dollar) at auction in Beijing last year.
You won't often spot his logo...on grocery store shelves....."
The estate champions progressive social policies and under the Fair Trade program,
it administers a successful micro-loan program, again supervised by a woman.
Loans have been used for the electrification of villages, increasing forestation,
improving sanitation facilities, purchase of farm animals and, recently, the development
of a computer centre for children.
It has received numerous awards and accolades for its many accomplishments: