Tea estate
Workers in a tea estate in Dibrugarh district of Assam | Sanjit Das/Bloomberg
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The orthodox tea from an estate in upper Assam yields a golden colour produce and is derived from a special variety of tea clone.

New Delhi: Tea from the Manohari tea estate of Dibrugarh in upper Assam has set the record for being the most expensive tea in the country, after being tagged at Rs 39,001 per kilogramme at an auction in Guwahati Tuesday.

The Manohari Gold Speciality tea has fetched the highest ever auction price anywhere in the country, said the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC), where the bidding was held Tuesday. It beat the previous record of Rs 18,801 a kilogramme of tea from the Donyi Plo Speciality tea estate in Arunachal Pradesh.

An elaborate production process

Unlike most tea leaves that produce a final product that is black in colour, the Manohari Gold variety yields a golden colour produce.

It takes at least 40 days to process, from leaf picking to packaging; ordinarily, for other tea varieties, the process takes just 18 hours. The orthodox tea comes from a special variety of tea clone, whose leaves are handpicked in the early hours — between 4 am and 6 am  — to prevent its distinct aroma and flavour from being affected by the heat of the sun.

Manohari Gold Speciality tea
Manohari Gold Speciality tea | By special arrangement

The tea is then hand-rolled to preserve its qualities. Because the process is a slow and lengthy affair, the yield does not go beyond 50 grams a day. The Manohari tea estate has produced a total of two kilogrammes of the tea this entire season.

“The kind of speciality tea that we have made is an art, and any kind of art needs a lot of dedication, hard work, thought and planning,” said Rajan Lohia, the 84-year-old tea estate owner.

Lohia plans to manufacture the second lot only next year as the best weather conditions to grow the variety are in May and June.

Sent to Ahmedabad, Delhi and Kolkata

The bid of Rs 39,001 was made by the Guwahati-based Sourabh Tea Traders. The tea was being sold by Contemporary Brokers at stall 30 in GTAC. The two kilogrammes have been shipped to three places in the country. While a kilogram has gone to a tea boutique in Ahmedabad, 500 grams each have been transported to Delhi and Kolkata, for those associated with corporate gifting.

The tea sale comes after the Tea Board of India recently revised the permissible bid limit for orthodox tea leaf type from Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000. This after tea producers from Assam had moved the board, seeking a removal of the price cap, on the grounds that some of them were producing teas that could fetch prices above the bidding limit.

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