Drinking tea isn't just a leisurely activity for us, although we could spend hours in a day just savouring all our 80+ tea leaves and ingredients sourced and blended from across India and around the world. Tea for us is a way of life, which includes sourcing it responsibly, processing it optimally, blending it aesthetically, packaging it smartly, and ensuring the whole process from the garden to your tea cup is sustainable and environment-positive. This entire process starts with responsible sourcing. Let's take a look at why it's important to support small, local, organic farmers and tea estates and how that impacts the tea ecology.
Tea cultivation is a complex art form that is very exacting in its requirements. Ideally, tea is cultivated in lands where high temperatures, long growing season, and heavy rainfall occurs like tropical and sub-tropical conditions. The best quality yield is achieved in areas with temperatures ranging from sixteen to thirty-two degrees Celsius. Temperatures colder or warmer than that can negatively impact the tea bushes. Warm summers and frequent rains, 125-150 cm of annual rainfall distributed evenly between 8-9 months, promote rapid tea-leaf production. Another crucial climactic factor is atmospheric humidity which is generally required to be around 80%. When it comes to its soil requirements, tea can be grown in a variety of soils such as lateritic, alluvial, and peaty. The soil must contain low amounts of calcium along with high quantities of potassium and silicon. The best suited kind of soil is one which is a light, friable loam with porous sub-soil which allows free passage of water, because tea is highly intolerant to water that is stagnant. Additionally, the presence of iron in the sub-soil aids tea production. One thing to note when it comes to the soil used for tea cultivation is that on sloping land, which is best suited for this process, soil erosion is a major problem. To counter this, tea bushes are planted in lines along contours. Often, when used responsibly and in correct dosage, nitrogenous fertilizers such as ammonium sulphate can aid growth.
When the conditions are just right and proper cultivation practices are followed, good quality, healthy tea plants can be cultivated while being environmentally conscious. With organic farming, we can ensure that both conditions are being met.
Organic farming is essentially done by following a set of agricultural practices that focus on growing the crop by managing the natural ecosystem instead of using synthetic outside inputs. By relying on such practices, we ensure we are being environmentally conscious.
Some of the best tea cultivation practices by organic farmers are-
- Pest management- Using pesticides on mature tea should be avoided. If used, pesticides must be applied in a restrictive manner only on those products recommended by the national tea research institutes and approved under national regulations. When it comes to weed control, for smaller farms, manual weed management is recommended. And if at all needed, herbicides can be used in ultra-low volume or using spot spray methods to allow proper targeting and reduce unnecessary spraying.
- Combination of mulches and fertilisers- Using organic matter or compost reduces the need for inorganic fertiliser application. When it is required, fertiliser must be placed under the tea canopy with care. Note that applying fertiliser in excess or in the wrong time can cause a lot of waste as well as damage to the environment.
- Water sources- The water used for irrigation on farms should be done by drip irrigation rather than sprinklers to conserve water. Using structures with appropriate roofing to feed water tanks and collecting rainwater is advisable.
- Soil fertility- Soil organic matter is required to provide nutrients and water to the tea crop. Retaining tea prunings in the soil, adding manure and plant litter where organic matter is less, and letting the leaves that fall from shade plants remain on the ground are good steps to boost soil fertility.
India is one of the top producers of tea in the world and with good reason! Tea is grown in various different regions across the country. The most prominent among these regions is Assam. Assam is one of the largest tea producing areas in the world. In fact, it is the only region besides China that can boast of its own variety of native tea plant- Camellia sinensis assamica. In Assam planters have set up tea gardens in an area of about 3220 square km! Another very important region for tea cultivation in India is Darjeeling. Darjeeling tea is popular for its distinct taste and aroma. Generally, the tea cultivated in these parts is black tea but one can also find oolong, green, and white varietals. Some popular Darjeeling tea gardens are Marybong, Tumsong, Ging, and Chamong. Other regions in India where tea is cultivated are Wayanad, Annamalais, Munnar, Sikkim, Nilgiri, and Travancore.
If you’ve made it this far, you know the complexities and the little bits and pieces that need to come together for the perfect teacup that not only tastes good but is also environmentally sustainable. We believe in going the extra mile and sourcing our tea locally. Why? Here’s why-
- Lesser food miles- One of the best ways to help the environment is by reducing your food miles i.e. purchasing goods produced in the local community. This way we avoid the transportation of goods from long distances and reduce the environmental impact of our consumption. Local food does not require overseas plane transportation and shipping facilities, refrigeration facilities and thus has a reduced carbon footprint.
- Supporting local workforce- Sourcing homegrown product helps to keep planters and farmers employed by creating jobs. It also impacts the local economy positively because the money spent is reinvested into the local economy. Additionally, since local farmers don’t have the same transportation and distribution charges, they get to retain most of their profits. To put it simply, rural communities are heavily dependent on sustainable agriculture which is just another good reason to go sustainable!
Let’s look at where some of our teas come from-
- Matcha tea :
Our Matcha blends are freshly sourced in small batches from the Shizouka province in Japan. The particularity of Matcha green tea takes place during its careful growing process.
Darjeeling region, set against the backdrop of Himalayas, produces tea that is famous for its unique aroma and intricacies in tea production- these include plucking and processing the teas. Our teas, freshly sourced from this region, is cherished by both connoisseurs and casual tea lovers across the world. Karma Kettle Darjeeling teas have all varietals black tea, oolong tea, green tea and white tea.
Our Assam Tea is made from the finest leaves handpicked from the tea gardens of Assam. It features a rich supply of plant compounds and antioxidants that's beneficial for overall well-being. Kaziranga, one of our Assam black tea is named after the region of its production in North East India.