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Est. 2020

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A Tea Fit for Royalty

BY Love, Indus | PUBLISHED ON January 23, 2021

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In the world of tea, Darjeeling is a magical place. Even without tea, it’s a special part of the world.

Nestled in the “lesser” Himalayas (which still dwarf most other mountain ranges), the town lies 6,700 feet above sea level and the surrounding area offers plenty of greenery, wildlife (tigers, leopards and elephants), and in the distance, a glimpse of awe-inspiring Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world.

However, in our collective conscience, the town is inextricably linked with tea. In the early 1800s, the British were looking for an alternate to China for tea, where the industry and production methods were closely guarded secrets. After much determined espionage, the Brits, in a story worthy of a Bolly/Hollywood blockbuster, were able to smuggle some seeds and production secrets out of China. They then looked across their vast empire for suitable terroir and found it in Darjeeling. The rest, as they say, is history.

The area is now home to over eighty tea estates of which Makaibari, the very first (founded in 1859), remains pre-eminent. Makaibari is unique in many ways – it was founded by an Indian, when all other estates were established by colonialists, it remained in the founding family’s hands until very recently, when they sold control to another family that is just as committed to maintaining the estate’s high standards and it produces the most expensive Indian tea – Makaibari Silver Tips Imperial.

What makes Silver Tips Imperial so special? A confluence of factors that rely on organic farming (no pesticides here), a proprietary fertilizer (made of oak bark, valerian flower, natural crystals amongst other exotic ingredients), terroir and a perfect alignment of cosmic elements. Of all the tea produced at Makaibari, only the Silver Tips Imperial is picked during a full moon, when specially trained tea-pickers collect two leaves and a bud from each bush. The full moon and resultant high tide are believed to draw moisture from the plant thereby concentrating flavors, while the air’s high oxygen levels and cosmic energy also contribute to create a tender, smoother tasting leaf.

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One might dismiss these rituals as more magical than scientific, but connoisseurs tout its taste and consistently value Makaibari's Silver Tips Imperial more than any other Indian tea, paying as much as $840 per pound at auction. As a further testament to Silver Tips Imperial’s special place in the firmament of Darjeeling teas, on a recent visit to the UK, the Indian Prime Minister carried some with him as a gift for Queen Elizabeth II.

The tea, a semi-fermented Oolong offers flavors of mango and frangipani flower in a refreshing, light-gold brew. It is also known to be packed with more anti-ageing antioxidants than most regular teas – perhaps a result of all that cosmic energy? Whatever the reason, its benefits help power our products in delivering improved skin strength, resilience and luminosity.

If you do find yourself in and around Darjeeling, you’re well-advised to visit Makaibari and if you time it just right, you could witness the magic of the Silver Tips Imperial harvest in person.

Suggested reading: BBC Travel - “India’s rare tea picked under a full moon”

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