I was inspired to write this post by a review I read on Sarah's blog Latte Tea Dah: I Now Dream of Darjeeling: Makaibari 2nd Flush Organic .
A couple years ago, I had sampled a few single-estate Darjeeling teas, but the prospect of being able to have opinions on individual estates was still way out of grasp, something that I could perhaps imagine others doing, but was nowhere near doing myself.
I still don't have many opinions, as there are a large number of estates that I've tried only one or two teas from, and many I have yet to try any teas from. But I do now have a favorite tea estate, and that is Makaibari estate. Furthermore, the Makaibari tea estate has an official website:
It's worth visiting the website, which has more information about the estate, including the garden's commitment to sustainability and ecological principles, and a photo gallery. You can also buy some tea directly through the website. It is rather unusual for individual tea gardens to have websites, and Makaibari is one of only a few that have extensive websites.
Discussion on the "best" Darjeeling estate:
I really don't like the word "best", but I want to point out that there was a discussion over 4 years ago on teachat, best darjeeling estate?, and of the four replies that name gardens, all four name Makaibari. Other gardens named are Castleton, Jungpana, and Arya. I haven't tried Jungpana but I will say, of these, I've tried enough teas to say that I like Makaibari the best of the others mentioned, simply because I've tried teas from Castleton and Arya estates that I was less a fan of.
Makaibari's teas are pretty diverse. I find them to tend on the lighter side, but still have some bite to them. One of my favorite teas ever was a long-leaf green tea produced by Makaibari estate. I also love their first-flush, and have had very good blended tea (blends of different flushes) from this estate, sold by the Hampstead tea brand. With each of their teas, I have been impressed by the complexity of its aroma. Their are two reviews, including mine, of their first flush as sold by Arbor Teas, on RateTea if you want to get an idea of what these teas are like.
Sustainability, Organics, and Biodynamic Agriculture:
Makaibari estate also stands out from the other tea gardens, not only in Darjeeling, but around the world, as it has been a leader in sustainable agricultural practices. Makaibari was one of the first organic tea operations, and also practices biodynamic agriculture, which goes above and beyond organic certification. Both the organic and biodynamic practices have been in place since 1991, but the history of conscious sustainability-promoting decisions goes back to long before the word "sustainability" entered the mainstream: in 1971 the garden shifted over to a permaculture-based system. There's a great Wikipedia page on permaculture: it's an ancient approach to both human settlements and agriculture that emphasizes stability and long-term prosperity, using awareness of ecological principles, and it's an approach that I support wholeheartedly. You can read a bit more information on TransFair's page on Makaibari estate...which also leads into one more remark: Makaibari estate also produces fair-trade certified tea.
I find it interesting that I first got interested in this estate because I liked the way its teas tasted so much, but then came to learn that it is doing all these fantastic things that are in line with my values and goals in life.
How about you?
Have you tried tea from Makaibari estate? Were you aware of all of the sustainable, ecologically-sound practices of Makaibari estate? Would you too like to see these sorts of practices be the norm, rather than the exception, not only in tea production, but in all agriculture, worldwide?