Canton Tea Club Week 4: Arya Diamond Second Flush Darjeeling
Perched 1500m above sea level on the lush green mountains in the Darjeeling region of West Bengal is a little slice of organic tea paradise. The Arya estate also called ‘Sidrabong’ (which translates as ‘Holy Fish Water’ – so much prettier in Bengali) was established by Buddhist monks in the 18th century. Here they cultured numerous Chinese plants, herbs and spices to use in traditional Ayurvedic healing. The setting is idyllic, surrounded by misty hills, streams and other organic tea estates, but notoriously steep and difficult to access as the slopes have an average 60° incline.
Not only is Arya a beautiful estate that produces wonderful organic tea; but it also an ethically-run company, with a deep-rooted philosophy of looking after their employees. A great example of the way that tea can and should be produced (you can read more on Darjeeling and the importance of buying directly from tea gardens here).
The workers and their families are provided with free accommodation in small villages spread across the estate. There is a small on-site primary school for children up to 8th grade, then they continue their education at the local high school. The families have a medical centre and sports facilities. The workers grow their own organic fruit and vegetables and are provided with rice and wheat, the funds to buy a cow and keep bees. All workers are provided with a retirement fund and their children are offered their parent’s jobs when they retire.
Canton Tea Co was set up in 2007 to buy great tea from small, ethically-minded and family-run estates such as Arya – and the core values of our business remain the same today. Arya produces 50-60 thousand kgs of tea per year so the relatively modest quantities we currently buy barely makes a dent. But the growth of the discerning market for high grade tea means our future is wedded to these types of estates and even as we grow we can eschew the cheap, industrially produced stuff, leaving it to the mega-corps to hoover up.