The Story Of Temi Tea Estate In Sikkim, India’s First Fully Organic State
Last month the IMO Control Board of India announced that all teas produced in Sikkim will be certified completely organic. The state is the first totally organic state in the country.
The IMO Control Board of India has certified tea from Sikkim as 100% Organic. IMO Control Private Limited (IMO India) is an independent certification body in India for organic agriculture that has been carrying out audits and certification since 1995.
They have a team of well-qualified professionals with many years of active experience in the inspection and certification of organic agriculture and allied areas. With such a historic recognition, the world famous tea of Sikkim becomes 100% Organic from May 2017.
The Temi Tea Estate of Sikkim is the only government run tea garden in the state and has made quite an international name for itself for its organic teas. The estate had undertaken the guidelines issued by the Institute of Marketology (IMO) of Switzerland to produce organic tea in April 2005 and the initiative has been completed earlier this year.
Teas produced by the estate have been compared to those of the neighbouring Darjeeling teas, and some believe that Sikkim teas — under the banner of Temi Tea in particular — might just prove to be the new ‘champagne’ to toast to. Makaibari’s Chairman, Rajah Banerjee, being the frontrunner of the belief.
Unlike most tea plantations in Darjeeling which had been nurtured by British planters for their benefit, Sikkim’s tea story started with a far more humane reason.
Following the Chinese invasion, Tibetan refugees were thronging to India for sanctuary. Sikkim was still an independent nation. The last Chogyal (king) of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal, set aside a former Sherpa village named Ravangla in 1969. These lands had been earlier given to Scottish missionaries for their social work. It had been returned to the government of Sikkim in 1954 and it was then used to set up a tea estate where the Tibetan refugees could find work and continue to live with dignity. Located between the altitudes 7000 mts and 5,500 mts, the estate has been a sanctuary for thousands of Tibetans since then. The tea estate was named Temi and soon the entire region came to be known by the estate.
Sikkim became a part of India in 1975 and the estate has become a tourist attraction for several travellers since.
One of the most talked about aspects of Temi Tea Garden is the profound natural beauty that it is located in. The mighty Kanchenjunga, the tallest peak in India, feels at an arm’s reach and the estate spreads right down from the government-operated Cherry Resort. A few day’s stay at this resort is considered to be a healing balm for the weariest of souls.
Apart from the exquisite tea, Sikkim is also known for its other organic produce. The state is the largest cardamom producer in India. It falls second in the global map only to Guatemala. Apart from its cash crops, Sikkim is also home to a wide variety of trees.
Winters are a special delight for visitors as the cherry trees that line several of the avenues along the tea estate, are in full bloom. It is also in winters that the Kanchenjunga and the other peaks of the Himalayan range are in clear view. The pristine blue skies fragrant with the fusion of cherry blossoms, pine and tea at Temi.
But Temi is scenic all year round, with the many shades of nature playing into the tea plants as much as the sunlight plays on the colour of the might Kanchenjunga peak at different times of the day.
One of the region’s best kept secrets is the Temi Tea Factory. While guests are encouraged to soak in the natural goodness of the tea gardens as well the pine forests and the cherry-lined avenues, entry to the factory is strictly restricted. It is here that the wondrous and organic produce of the garden is turned into a fine tea.
Temi Tea Estate is best known for its black teas. The tea estate started mass manufacturing of its teas in 1977 and over the years, the estate has grown to bring nearly 500 acres of the mountainside under tea plantation. Apart from the certified clonal varieties of bushes that Temi Tea Estate has, there are also plants from the chinary seeds which helps the estate grow teas for flavoured varieties of tea.
The estate’s produce was initially sold with the Darjeeling Tea logo but that changed since August 2000 when the estate separated itself from the international branding of the region. Instead, the produce is now sold under the exclusive ‘Sikkim Tea’ brand.
Temi Tea is also HACCAP Certified as per ISO 22000 standard under Food Safety apart from the IMO’s recent certification of being 100% organic tea.