Golden brew: Rare Assam tea bag world record at auction
A rare Assam tea has been sold at a world record price at an auction in India, highlighting the explosion of specialty teas while the entire industry is in crisis.
A batch of Maijan Orthodox Golden tea weighing two kilograms (4.4 pounds) sold for 141,002 rupees ($ 2,035) on Wednesday.
An unidentified Belgian trader bought tea through a local dealer, an auction official said.
Secretary of the Guwahati Tea Center Dinesh Bihani said it was a record price when auctioned, breaking 50,000 rupees a kilo for some Manohari Golden tea the previous day.
Buyers from Germany, Britain, the United States and Iran are operating in the Assam market and higher prices are said to have been paid by private sales.
Maijan Orthodox comes from 100-year-old bushes on Assam Company India Limited plantations, one of the world’s oldest tea businesses.
The company is recovering after being declared bankrupt last year by Indian tycoon B.R. Shetty.
“Rich in scent and quickness, Maijan Golden brings a unique and exotic experience,” India Assam’s director, Sanjay Jain, told AFP.
Production is a “tedious process”, however, he added.
“Shoots are picked on specific days depending on climatic conditions, rolled by hand and dried in the sun.
“The whole process is very natural and there are no related machines,” Jain said.
He said only 35 kilos of tea were produced this year and only two kilograms were auctioned this week.
“We are very pleased with the record price. It indicates that there are quality tea buyers and this is good news for the tea industry in Assam,” he said.
Assam India has 14 gardens across the northeast state and produces more than 10 million kilograms of black tea and other varieties including Jasmine.
While Maijan Orthodox and other rare specialty teas in the region are booming, the Indian Tea Association (ITA) this week has called for government and central aid to keep prices of conventional products than.
They want authorities to ban the expansion of tea production in at least five main areas.
The association paid for advertisements in newspapers saying the tea industry, which employs more than a million people, is in crisis.
“While the average selling price is almost still stagnant, the average production cost is increasing leading to losses of gardens,” the appeal said.
ITA also called on public funds to promote Indian tea and set minimum prices when auctioned off based on production costs.
Assam accounts for more than half of India’s tea production with over 650 million kilograms per year out of the state’s 850 tea gardens.