Darjeeling Tea Shortage Looms in the United Kingdom
Stocks of the "champagne of teas" are already running out.
According to the Telegraph, strikes and demonstrations regarding a “separate homeland for the Nepali-speaking Gurkha people,” has led to one of the worst harvests ever for the tea (called a “flush,” Darjeeling tea undergoes five in its production season; growers are currently in the midst of the summer flush). These strikes have happened in the past, though they often come during a lull between seasons.
“The continuing troubles in and around Darjeeling are responsible for the loss of over half the region's tea production this season,” said Kaushik Bhattacharya of the Darjeeling Tea and Management Association.
The Darjeeling region’s 87 tea gardens produce anywhere from eight to ten million kilos of tea every year. Even though it’s incredibly expensive (some flushes have raked in $850 per kilogram), Darjeeling harvests account for 40 percent of tea growers’ annual revenue.
The region’s political strife has left the tea bushes overgrown, in dire need of a pruning and weeding, before the harvest can resume. But the more than 100,000 workers who harvest the tea don’t show any signs that they’ll be returning to the gardens soon.
Before worked stop in June, only one third of the total crop had been harvested, according to the BBC. As a result, wholesalers are already canceling their orders and sourcing cheaper alternatives from other regions of India. Some growers say they could lose up to $40 million dollars if the harvest doesn’t pick back up soon.
Darjeeling—nicknamed the “champagne of teas” for its floral fragrance and full-bodied taste—is one of the most beloved teas in the Britain. 35 percent of the Darjeeling tea harvested in the region is exported to the U.K.—the remainder goes to the rest of Europe, Japan (where stocks may run out as soon as November) and the United States.