(Last Updated on : 16/01/2014)
Avongrove Tea Estate is one of the most picturesque tea gardens in Darjeeling. Avongrove means "Nest of Birds
" and the name is justified, since many colourful birds are seen in this tea garden. This tea estate of Darjeeling is situated in the Rungbong Valley, on the banks of the Balasun River at 2200 feet above sea level. The elevation goes up to 5700 feet. About 184.79 hectare of land is under tea and there are 500 workers who live on the estate to maintain optimal plucking rounds. Avongrove Tea Estate is certified as an organic tea estate under USA (USA), JAS (Japan), NOP and NPOP (India and the EU).
The factory of Avongrove Tea Estate was built in 1998 and since then produces about 60,000 to 70,000 kg of tea a year. The Avongrove Tea Estate has a perennial source of water and almost the entire area under tea cultivation can be irrigated. Approximately 60% of the area under tea has chinary and chinary clonal bushes. Of the 40% that remains, around 20% are called the hybrid bushes and a very small percentage are purely from Assam. Avongrove Tea Estate offers a range of specialty Darjeeling tea that is processed by expert hands. For instance, the peony rosette and florette are two kings of teas produced in this estate. The florette expands when allowed to gently brew in a tall container, revealing a flower when the hot water makes the outer leaves open up. One woman, working for the entire day, can make only 6 florettes. The finest hand-picked and carefully nurtured tea of Avongrove Tea Estate is packed in quaint, hand-crafted wooden chests that also make a lovely great gift. Once the tea is consumed, the little chests are great to keep as boxes for knick-knacks or stationery.
In Darjeeling in the foothills of the Himalayas, Avongrove Tea Estate is spread across two hillsides thickly populated with tea bushes on the crests and thick forest in the valleys; the Balasun River meanders along its course below. Traditional methods are taken to manufacture tea, nurturing every leaf from the time it is carefully hand-picked to when it is packed with pride as the best Darjeeling tea. Teams of fifteen pluck different sections of the Avongrove Tea Estate, taking care to ensure that the leaves are just the right size to provide the finest quality, handling plucked bundles gently so they do not get crushed or ruptured.
The processing factory of Avongrove Tea Estate is continually monitored by the veteran manager, tasting and making adjustments so that a rich and eternal flavour is derived. The various processes of withering or removing moisture, like gentle rolling, oxidizing and finally firing of the leaf must be properly tuned so as the optimum ratio differs from season to season and even day to day. During the first flush period in early February and March, the leaf offers a crisp, light brew and during the second, the best Avongrove cup is a gently golden in colour, smooth and flavoured.
Besides our traditional Darjeeling leaf tea, Avongrove Tea Estate specially provides hand-woven Florette, which is a beautiful flowering tea and the naturally fragranced teas that provides an additional soothing aroma to the inherent Darjeeling. Five hundred workers live on the Avongrove Tea Estate with their families, in small houses decorated with orange trees and flowers. Life in Avongrove Tea Estate is simple, nobody disturbs the hills and the workers always welcome their frequent bird visitors drawn to this organic estate, free from chemicals. Some of the variants of Avongrove Tea include First Flush Leaf Tea, which is the crisp, subtle infusion with a pungent flavour; second Flush Muscatel, which is wiry, a quietly coppery cup, aromatic and round; Euphoria, which is rich with flavour. White Tea of Avongrove Tea Estate is a speciality that is made with only the tips for a light, pale cup and a delicate, lasting flavour. Other variants of Avongrove Tea Estate include the thin silver leaves of Silver Blossom, Fragranced Tea Pearls, fragranced with vanilla, mint or lemongrass; Florette, Pine Scented Tea Pyramids, Olympic Flame, Deorali and Peony Rosette.