A rare variety of tea from Assam called Manohari Gold has been sold at a record-breaking price of Rs 99,999 per kg under the pan-India auction at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre. This year, the variety broke its own record after last year’s auction price of Rs 75,000 per kg.
In fact, in 2018, the same tea from the same plantation — the 1,000-acre Manohari Tea Estate — had created a record by becoming the most expensive tea sold at any auction in India at Rs 39,001 a kg.
Rajan Lohia from Suntok Tea Company, which owns the tea estate, told indianexpress.com that the variety, known for its malty flavour, gives a golden colour when brewed, and has “now been having more demand”. “There is less production, which is why the price it sells has been breaking record year after year. The manufacturing process itself is costly with approximately only 80 grams of buds plucked per day, as compared to 20-25 kgs of tea leaves plucked per day,” said the Dibrugarh resident.
“It is equal to gold as the production is completely hand-held or manual without any use of machines. So the quantity, plucked in June-July every year, is also limited,” mentioned Lohia.
The plucking process involves picking two tender leaves and a bud which is harvested four times a year.
While the ‘first flush’ of leaves is picked during late March, the ‘second flush’ is picked from May through June, the ‘third flush’ from July-September, and the ‘fourth flush’ from October-November.
As per tea planter C K Parasher, who invented the tea variety in 2018, as a result of oxidation the colour changes from green to brownish in the fermentation process, and on drying, the buds become golden. They are then segregated from the black leaves.
“The P126/A plant produces heavy number of tips. While plucking takes 2-3 hours, withering — a very important process — takes 19 hours which is where the chemical changes take place in the leaf itself, and then it is processed by hand, which takes 45 minutes to an hour. The juices are extracted from the bud which changes its colour from silver to golden. Since the quantity is so less, the buds are put on a wire mesh to dry,” the expert who is 87-years-old told indianexpress.com.
According to Parasher, the specialty golden orthodox tea made from the buds of P-126/A — which is the ‘finest tea clone grown under perfect climatic conditions’ in the ‘second flush’ — is unlike the traditional Assam teas processed by machines.
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