The successful completion of pilot projects on white tea has paved the way for planters in Tripura to go for full-scale production of the ”costly and delicate” variety.
Earlier this year, the 95-year-old Golokpur tea estate in Unakoti district of the state set a record when it sold its white tea for Rs 10,000 a kg to a Banglore-based retailer.
Prabir De, the commercial manager of the garden, said the demand for the special variety has been growing steadily.
This year, we produced 30 kg white tea on an experimental basis and sold it at Rs 10,000 per kg to Tea Box, a Bangalore-based retailer.
“With the demand for the variety growing at a steady pace, we have decided to increase its production. The production process, however, needs a lot attention,” he said.
White tea is minimally processed. It is harvested even before the plants leaves unfurl fully with the buds still covered by fine white hairs, hence, the name white tea.
Besides fetching good money, white tea will also earn the tea estate a good name, as people in the industry know that the production process is difficult. We have been getting more orders for this special variety, De said.
We mainly produce green tea and orthodox tea and export it to Tehran, Iran, and Iraq. Over the past four to five years, however, we have been sending tea to Jammu and Kashmir and Amritsar. We have a total area of 184.55 hectares, which produces around 5 lakh kg of tea of different varieties annually, he added.
Fatikcherra, another 101-year old tea estate in the hill state, has produced 6.8 kg white tea this year, which fetched Rs 5,500 per kg.
Joydeep Ganguly, the estate manager who hails from Darjeeling, said, I have the experience of producing different types of tea, including green tea, ulong and gyukoru (Japanese handrolled green tea). This year I tried white tea and it turned out to be successful.
We produce 1.5 lakh kg tea annually and sell it in Siliguri through forward contracts, the price ranging between Rs 300 and Rs 700 per kilo, depending on leaf grade.
Compared to that, one kg white tea brings in a lot more money, Ganguly said.
Around one quintal (100kgs) of white tea has been produced in the state this year, said Diganta Barman, the assistant director of the Tea Board of India.
Tripura annually produces nine million kg tea in 58 gardens, Barman said.
The agro-climatic condition is favourable for tea production in Tripura. Now we have got a logo approved for Tripura tea, and even convinced the tribal villagers to grow wild tea near the Tripura-Mizoram boundary. However, we have competition from Assam Tea, Darjeeling Tea and other established brands, he said.
The Tea Board of India is now trying to convince planters to turn to organic brew, besides encouraging white tea production, he said.
“Tripura has always had a problem of auctioning tea as there is no auction centre in the state. The Bangladesh government has, however, agreed to allow planters from Tripura to auction their produce at Sreemangal subdivision of Moulavibazar district, which is near the Tripura border, Barman added.