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My Encounter with Camilla Sinensis

The great thing about having  work experience (but not working), poor photographer and a poor student is that your kind friends think of you when they hear of short term jobs and make contact for you with the people who needs short term skilled workers… and I am glad I have many kind friends, besides earning a bit, I am learning a lot of new skills in life and I am making the best of my time –though it is ending soon as I will have to go back to work....at least part time..before my course in the Uni starts in September

 Few weeks ago, a friend of mine called me if I needed work for few days….he said that all I had to do was wear a sari and host  tea parties for three days and a seminar on India in one of the best hotels in Austria. It did not sound so hard and the money was great…and the opportunity to wear my finest Assam, Mysore and Benaras sarees was too tempting to turn down the offer…(though it takes me about an hour to bind it….ha ha ha … I did end up wearing my Mizo puan one morning…)

So without knowing what I had committed myself to, I went for a brief up meeting with the PR guy and there I encountered Camellia Sinensis…. ….what do I know about Camilla except that she is our favourite drink in India….

 Commonly known to us as TEA, Camilla Sinensis is an evergreen plant, ingenious to both India and China. It is said that it was discovered by the Emperor Shun in 2737BC, but I guess one can argue that it was in India that tea was discovered….I will leave that to the experts as I only have about 24 hours a day….

 Is it me? Now that I have more time to ponder about many things, anything I touch in the last few months seems to have so much history that I dare not venture to a new topic anymore…so I will stick with my Mizo History and I better finish at least 2 chapters this month……ha ha…have to wait till Beck bring my books over hopefully in the middle of this month.

 So, after the meeting, I took home with me a book on tea and hundreds of pages of information about tea presentation.I was almost banging my head on the wall as I dreaded to read yet another book, from which I have to do a crash research………….

 As I began reading, I thought it would be good to write it down as I will forget it …and maybe I can share with the others later in case they know as little about tea as I do though I love to drink it….

 How did Camilla land up in Darjeeling, how is it processed and why is Darjeeling tea world famous….?

 In 1841, Dr. Campbell, the first Superintendent of Darjeeling brought tea seeds and planted it in his garden at Beechwood. He was quite successful with the experiment, therefore, the government in 1847 decided to put tea nurseries in the area. Tea plantation requires numerous labours to plant, pluck, tend and manufacture tea, but at this time, Darjeeling was sparsely populated; therefore, people from surrounding areas like Sikkim and Nepal were brought in to meet the needs of this labour intensive enterprise.

Unlike Assam tea, all Darjeeling teas are hand plucked and the region produces the world’s best aromatic teas. The smallest shoots, comprising of two leaves and a bud are plucked. It requires 22,000 such shoots, all plucked by hand - to produce 1 Kg. of Tea.

Tea in Darjeeling is harvested four times a year, and the same tea bush gives different character of tea over the harvest seasons. Tea is not plucked during winter months.  

The four harvest seasons are:

·        First Flush - End of February to April: The first tea plucked after the dormant winter months is called the First Flush tea .The liquor is characterized by a light translucent colour and a fragrant floral aroma.

This is the tea I went to present, it was plucked in March 2007, and was already here in Austria...delicious....

·        Second Flush - 3rd week of May to 3rd week of June: The Second Flush crops are more mature and are full of aroma. It is during this period that the famous "Muscatel" flavour becomes pronounced. This second harvest is the most expensive tea from Darjeeling.

I will be going back in June to present the Second Flush…

·        Rain’s Flush- End of June to middle of September: At this time of the year, tea grows in abundance and is produced in bulk. The brew is dark and the aroma is not exclusive due to rain, and is said to contain too much water.

·        Autumn’ Flush -Middle of September to November: At this time, the crops had already gone through summer and monsoon. The harvest is said to have strong aroma and the appearance in tea cups is copper in colour.

Darjeeling tea is produced with an Orthodox Method or the so called CTC method (Cut, Tear, Crush) and this starts with the process of withering.

WITHERING: After the plucked leaves are brought in, they are spread evenly on a withering trough and hot and cold air is blown simultaneously for about 14-16 hours. The aim is to remove 65-70% of the moisture so that the leaves becomes limp and can withstand the further process without crumbling.

ROLLING: The withered leaves are put in the rollers and this procedure lasts for 45 minutes. During this process the green leaf turns brown because when rolled under pressure, the cells ruptures and release the natural juices promoting oxidation and acceleration of pigmentation.


Fermentation begins with the process of Rolling. The rolled leaf is kept on the fermentation racks. Fermentation process is carried out at a low temperature in cool ‘naturally’ aired rooms, and the fermentation period lasts about 2-4 hours. The colour becomes dark and coppery and this is the stage, in which the flavanols combine with oxygen in the air, and develops the unique flavour of Darjeeling Tea.

FIRING or DRYING : After fermentation, the leaf is loaded to a dryer, in a perforated moving trays and dried for about 20 to 30 minutes.

SORTING & GRADING: After Firing, tea is then cooled and sorted using mechanically oscillated sieves for grading purpose. There is a gradual decrease in the sieve size from top to bottom which facilitates bigger size teas to remain on the top and the broken to the bottom.

So, that is the tale of the Darjeeling tea………… Today, there are 86 tea gardens, which produce about 10 million kilograms of tea annually, employing about 52, 000 people and additional 15,000 people during the plucking seasons.

After my crash course, I was on my way. I was pleasantly delighted to find out that the hotel was located in the Türracher Höhe, the same place where I had gone skiing with my friends. Then, I was quite embarrassed to find out that while immersed in my skiing activities, I missed the much talked about Chinese Pagoda in Austria, and found out that the top floor of the Pagoda was my working space……

What a beautiful Tea House, and I was so fascinated by the variety of tea they have in the House. What does a Hillybilly like me from Mizoram know about tea except Thingpui – boil the water, add milk, tea and sugar? So, I learnt more about Chinese and Japanese tea and by the third day, I was a tea expert

Well, the event turned out to be much bigger than anticipated. We had journalists representing all major papers in Austria and a group from Italy. The tea parties were successful and my seminar on India - about history, culture, tourism, handloom from the NE, especially Mizoram fascinated the people....

Came Sunday, and after many tea cups later, it was time to go home and prepare myself for my Monday class………….


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 20th, 2007 05:49 am (UTC)
I guess I am one of the few Mizos who prefer coffee over tea. in fact, I don't like tea at all! Guess you can blame my upbringing. I was brought up in South India, where coffee is a regular pastime. Still, I enjoyed the enlightening post about tea here. Keep on blogging Pi Shahnaz.

- Kima (aka Sandman)

May. 21st, 2007 02:24 pm (UTC)
Hey Kima,
Thanks...I do not drink tea myself..I am a coffee drinker....hna ka thawh lai chuan ka kid te hovin, pi chu coffee a in hma chuan a biak theih loh an ti thin...ha ha ha real addict...Austrian coffee ka lo hawn dawn che a nia Delhi ka lo zin hunah:-)
May. 27th, 2007 01:58 pm (UTC)
Hi! Shahnaz Kimi
Very interesting blog.Sometime ago,a journalist gave us her book on Darjeeling tea called a journey through tea which I found very fascinating.
Anyway,DU a Misbah tia kan koh thin kha i ni em ?
May. 28th, 2007 05:57 pm (UTC)
aw ni e...nag tunge i nih...i hming tal lo ziak ve la...i va ngaihawm hmel ka thian hlui i nih chuan:-)
May. 29th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
No Subject
U Misbah,

Greetings from "Nostalgia Town" (Khumi, Khrilei, Guk Jin Sho, Babie, Nanui, Elte-a, U Sangi, Awite-a and....esp. from Pu Rikhuma.. :D

-Jimmy (lawrkhawm.com wala...Model Town, Delhi..now in Chennai).
May. 30th, 2007 05:38 pm (UTC)
Re: No Subject
E Jimmy, nang i ni maw.....i lo va lian tawh em em...(ka tar tawh ka tihna a nih chu...ha ha ha)...Elte a leh Nanui(Nanui i chuan min la kap zek leh pek a...) chu Aizawl ah ka hmu a Jan a ka lo zin khan....aiw midang ho kha an hming ka chhiar ringawt pawn ka lung an ti leng...Min lo biak vek dawn nia...
Jun. 12th, 2007 10:43 pm (UTC)
Re: No Subject
Hey Jimmy, I website ah kha in register a va har ve a...helppp.....
Jun. 2nd, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC)
i van inlak confi vel hmel eng i ni om bik c lo aaa
Jun. 2nd, 2007 11:26 pm (UTC)
Re: engmah
I walk the walk....i hming han ziak ngam lang chuan thil tam tak kan han discuss tur...mahseng tunge in nih tih ka ring ngam...tawng hmai in in ngaihtuah phawt thin tur....i lekha zir leh i sunday sikul kal man a awm lo em mai....
Jun. 2nd, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
Thought i was going to read about prince CHarles's extra-extra marital affair and was aromatically delighted by your piece. 'Camilla'...sounds tarty! Ever come across the japanese tea-ceremonies...might want to check that out.
Jun. 2nd, 2007 11:28 pm (UTC)
Hey Kima,
Thanks...I did not know either that tea's first name was Camilla..ha ha...I might have some article on the tea ceremonies and I will post it to you ...mangtha le...
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 9th, 2007 03:09 am (UTC)
Fr Islander
"FIRING or DRYING : After fermentation, the leaf is loaded to a dryer, in a perforated moving trays and dried for about 20 to 30 minutes".

Heihi an uluk a ngai khop mai, Thingpui hnah kha a ro tur chu a ni mahse a ut (burnt) loh a ngai. Chuvang chuan hetia an dry lai hian a drying tray hi a speed an factory area a moisture content tam dan a zirin leh temperature a zirin a speed an ti chakin an ti muang thin. Bai chhuang thiam bai a tui ang deuhin hemi operation hi expert hand a ngai.Abakah Tray mawnglam kha a lo sa bik ngei a tray thir dep lam kha a ut duh avangin thingpui hnah kha a inleh sek theih nan a inbinleh thin theih nan tray kalkawng ah khan fall an siam thin.Kimi hian english a thiam mai ni lovin thil ziak a thiam hle mai. Hmangaih biahthu minhlan se chu kan kur nguai nguai mai ang tih a hlauhawm a lom le :-)

Kan ram hi Pathian hian Thingpui chinna tura a siam ka ti thin. Mahse kan pumpui poloician te'n thing-anchhe-dawng an promote hnem em avangin kan la uar si lo anih hi. Hausak pui tham chanchintha (thingpui chin) hi chu a ni mole o. Kimi bei zel rawh, thangthar kuta kan ram rorelna a luh hunah kan rawn ruai ang che.
Jun. 12th, 2007 10:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Fr Islander
Pu Islander,
I va hre ve a:-)) Ka thil ziah te min lo chhiar sak a ka lawm hle mai. E, Mizoramah hian thil tih tur a tam lutuk, lo ho leh thuai2 ani ka duh ni...Consultant ah min ruai ngei dawn nia...tourism lamah ania ka tui ni....thil promote tur a tam lutuk....
Jun. 13th, 2007 10:01 am (UTC)
Re:Re: Fr Islander
Thingpui leh Coffee lam chu i hre zawk fe ang ka han belhchhah kha i tangkai pui chuan a lawm awm ang, mahse min bol chu ani lo'ng chu. Tourism hi kei poh ka tui ve fu tho mai-adventure tourism lam hi kan ram rough terrain nen hian mi kan hip (attract) theih ber ka ring. Hand held GPS tam tawk nei ila -mountian biking te, rock climbing te, river rafting te, Ram pilril a vah mai mai te hi tih ni ta se- infrastructure vak angai lova implement a har lo. A tul leh cell ph om lohnaah sattelite phone kan hmang anga, engkim German made quality veks provide ila(not made like Germany). He idea hi USA kan kal tumin Heathrow atrangin Sikkim tlangval hi ka bulah a lo chuang ve a min rawn be pop a, idea tamtak ka neihphah adventure tourism hi an lo ti nasa hle a lo nia. Rs 45 Cr vel hi an revenue lakluh per year a ni tourism chauhah.
BTW kan thalai fel tak2 te hian Consulting hi titurin han hokhawm teh, eng hna poh hi a thiam zawngchhuak thei hi Consultant rintlak chu an ni mai. Austria a and ropeway te a hmanraw chikim an siam te an tunnelling expert te hi kan la mamawh chauh dawn. Thil tak tak chu Tea and Coffee ani, mirethei chawikan nan:-)) Fr U Islander (No gender)
Jun. 27th, 2007 02:16 pm (UTC)
i mail ka hmu e
I mail ka hmu a, ka khawl a tha toh, thlalak ho a chhe zingah a awm nual avangin ka collect khawm leh mek. ka han thon thei tep ang che

Jul. 5th, 2007 10:52 am (UTC)
fantastic thing you are doing
Hi all!

Great book. I just want to say what a fantastic thing you are doing! Good luck!


Sep. 17th, 2010 05:43 pm (UTC)
Misbah, How about coming home this November? We're planning a get-together for the people who were together about 20 years back. We need you to look after our children. You see, we need someone with high intellect to look after them while we have our fun. And, am really proud of 'My Land And My People'. Rory
Jan. 9th, 2011 10:22 pm (UTC)
Hope you had fun Rory -you and all the bawling kids:-)
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )