The Smallest Tea Garden in Darjeeling
Giddapahar Tea Estate proves the axiom that bigger is not always better. But being bigger often means getting all the attention and press, and being smaller sometimes means being overlooked.
Giddapahar was founded in 1881, and has been in the same family ever since. Surendra Nath Singh and his brother are the fourth generation to be running the estate. And since this garden was brought to my attention about six years ago, they have consistently produced some of the best (and most reasonably priced) Darjeeling teas I have seen.
(Right: Surenda and his manager)
Giddapahar produces about 14,000 lbs per year, which sounds like a lot until you realize Margaret's Hope Tea Garden produces about 600,000 lbs per year. All Giddapahar's teas are entirely hand-plucked and processed. The "tea factory" is very small and located right next to the family home; in fact their factory is closer to their home than my garage is to my house.
When visiting the garden three things jump out:
First: the very close proximity of everything - the bushes, their home, the people to the plants, the factory itself and this feeling of closeness is amplified by the fact that everything is going vertical, i.e. going up the mountainside rather dramatically, rather than laying horizontal like a typical farm.
Second: the incredible joy and pride they take in sharing the fruits of their labor. A memory that will stay with me forever is sitting, sipping a cup of an incredible first flush Darjeeling with Surendra and his factory manager (his only regular employee) and my asking when this tea was plucked and made, and their looking at each other, then Surendra saying, "This morning."
And third; the warmth, hospitality, and humility of these wonderful and gifted people.