Makaibari Tea Estate is one of Darjeeling’s oldest tea gardens. The foresightedness of the Banerjee family (founders of tea garden) saw the potential of the tea garden. Mr. Swaraj Kumar Banerjee, the fourth-generation planter, popularly known as Rajah Banerjee realized the further potential this garden could make. The achievement of the Makaibari Tea Estate is beyond the same of other tea gardens over the years under his supervision and pioneering after 1970.
About Makaibari Tea Estate
Makaibari Tea Estate is a tea garden in the Darjeeling district, specifically in the Kurseong subdivision in the Indian state of West Bengal. An agent of the Darjeeling Tea Company, Captain Samler, developed Makaibari Estate in 1852. The owner of commissary and mail service in Kurseong, Girish Chandra Banerjee, bought the plantation from Samler. It is one of Darjeeling’s oldest tea gardens. The Makaibari tea factory was the first in the district of Darjeeling, opening in 1859 and closing in 1933.
Key Points of Makaibari Tea Estate
- Captain Samler, an agent of the Darjeeling Tea Company, developed Makaibari Tea Estate in 1852.
- Girish Chandra Banerjee, who owned a commissary in Kurseong and mail service, bought the plantation from Samler.
- It is one of Darjeeling’s oldest tea gardens.
- The Makaibari tea plant was the first in the Darjeeling district, opening from 1859 to 1933.
- It is one of the few tea gardens that an Indian family owns in Darjeeling.
- The Banerjee family has always kept the garden, except for a brief period under Captain Samler’s possession.
- Swaraj Kumar Banerjee, a fourth-generation planter and researcher, has governed Makaibari since the 1970s.
- Makaibari Tea Estate was purchased by the Luxmi Group in 2014. Swaraj Kumar Banerjee, on the other hand, remained Chairman of the firm till 2017.
- Rajah Banerjee or Swaraj Kumar Banerjee finally left Makaibari in 2017, turning over the tea farm to his 30 years junior, Rudra Chatterjee.
- Rajah Banerjee declared in 2018 that he will give the workers his remaining 12 percent shares in the Makaibari Tea and Trading Company, which he kept after selling the remainder of his stock to the Kolkata-based Luxmi Group.
The Span of the Makaibari Garden
The estate spans six ridges at a height of 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) above sea level. the plantation of tea is on 120 hectares of land out of a total of 670 hectares. The forestry development uses the remaining land. Three rivers pass over the tea estate, all of which join the Balason. The Makaibari Tea Estate supports the residents of seven villages Chungey, Thapathali, Makaibari, Cheptey, Koilapni, Fulbari, and Kodobari.
Rajah Banerjee and The Luxmi Group
Rajah Banerjee, often known as Swaraj Kumar Banerjee, is well known for overseeing his family’s Makaibari Estate in Darjeeling. He is a writer, an environmentalist, and a tea planter. He was Makaibari’s fourth-generation manager. In Darjeeling, he was a forerunner of the organic movement. Makaibari became organic and bio-dynamic under the guardianship of Rajah Banerjee. He’s known for his one-of-a-kind Silver Needle Moonlight Plucked Teas, which are only plucked in Darjeeling at midnight during the spring season, especially on a full moon night.
Rajah holds the world record for selling the most expensive tea at ₹1.11 lakh/kg ever sold in a wholesale auction. He has been the subject of several documentaries, including Lord of Darjeeling and Hamro Makaibari by Xavier de Lauzanne and Vikram Rai respectively. He’s has also an appearance in a series called ‘A Matter of Taste’ presented by Vir Sanghvi.
The Luxmi Group has acquired the majority stake in Makaibari in 2014. The group produces tea in large amounts on plantations throughout Tripura, Assam, the Terai, and the Dooars. The Luxmi Group was founded by Paresh Chandra Chatterjee in 1912 in Tripura to fuel the movement of Satyagraha by replacing ‘British’ tea with ‘Indian’ tea. Paresh Chandra Chatterjee founded the Luxmi Group in Tripura in 1912 to help fuel the Satyagraha movement. Replacing ‘British’ tea with ‘Indian’ tea was the main objective.
The Luxmi group owns twenty-five tea estates in different parts that include Darjeeling, Assam, North Bengal, and Rwanda. Dipankar, the son of Paresh Chandra Chatterjee, is now the chairman and has been a planter for almost 40 years. Carpets and real estate are two of the group’s other businesses. Tea generates a revenue of Rs 300 crore.
The Specialty of Makaibari Tea
You may not only sample the best of the aromatic, amber brews, of Makaibari Tea but also experience it as a way of life on the 677-hectare Makaibari Tea Estate tucked in the eastern Himalayas. Visitors are hosted by Gurkha tea workers in chalets attached to their own homes that dot the estate’s 7 villages, which are about 1,400 meters above sea level. Makaibari was the first garden in the world to be certified for trade and among the first to receive fair trade certification. It was the first garden to be recognized as an organic tea garden in 1988.
Makaibari produces about a lakh kilograms of tea per year. Darjeeling tea costs between Rs. 970 and Rs. 1,050 per kilogram on average. Makaibari tea sells for roughly 3,000 rupees per kilogram. In 2017, a premium batch of 5 kg of Darjeeling tea from Makaibari sold for $302 (Rs. 21,746) per kilogram, the highest price ever for any first flush handcrafted tea. While European tea experts favor first flush tea, tea connoisseurs in the United Kingdom and Japan prefer second flush tea. A rare lot of second flush handcrafted tea from Makaibari sold for $1,850 per kilogram (Rs. 1.57 lakh) in 2014. That was the world’s most expensive Indian tea.
Makaibari Estate Work Culture
Makaibari Tea Estate has about 45 staff and 700 employees. Every person who works in the garden is a long-term employee. For garden or manufacturing work, the corporation does not hire casual laborers. The workers are provided with free food, umbrellas, and shoes. There are primary schools available along with other facilities that the management provides. A computer center, a club, and community rooms with televisions are all available. There is also a library for the children of garden workers. There is also a garden hospital with a doctor on the visit. The garden hospital provides free treatment to workers and their families.
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