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Chai time at Harrods

india Updated: May 29, 2008 01:03 IST
Amitava Banerjee

From Happy Valley Tea Estate, the highest tea garden in the world at an altitude of 6,800 feet, to Harrods, UK, the largest department store in the world, the saga of exclusive handcrafted tea has begun.

Buyers from Harrods, with their Japanese partner Mitukoshi, arrived at the estate on Wednesday to procure special handcrafted tea. Exquisitely named (sample Cloud White, Imperial Cloud White, Special White, Golden Snowflakes, Silver Snowflakes, Snow Mist, Snow Pearl and Millenium), the teas are made from a combination of leaves and buds. They will go on the counters at Harrods with the store’s forthcoming Indian Tea Promotion drive, slated for all of September. “Happy Valley handcrafted tea will be a part of Specialty Tea at Harrods,” said Hafizur Rahman, consultant, tea and coffee, Harrods. The tea won’t come for cheap. “The retail price of different teas is between £100 and £1,000 per kg,” said Sanjay Bansal, chairman of Ambootia Tea Group, the garden owners.

Harrods and tea (specially Indian) have had a unique partnership since the store came into existence in London’s East End in 1834. In 1849, founder Charles Henry Harrod took over a small shop in Knightsbridge, the site of the current store, and became the first organisation in the UK to register with the Tea Board of India for certified trade mark, the Darjeeling logo and geographical indication. Today, it lifts 40,000 kg of Darjeeling tea annually.

“An agreement is being worked out between Harrods and Happy Valley for exclusive sale of this handcrafted tea,” said Rahman. Handcrafted teas are produced by trial and error, to attain perfection. Hence, production cost is 10-20 times more than for orthodox tea.