More like Darjeeling UNlimited. For the first time in over a century and a half, India’s famed, but exclusively monetized Darjeeling tea will be available to any buyer who is interested thanks to a newly unveiled online auction system.
As reported over on Quartz, tea from the West Bengal town of Darjeeling has historically only been sold to exclusive buyers in America, Japan, and Europe. The unique blends, which are known for their “muscatel flavours” (as the Darjeeling government website puts it), were sold in weekly private transactions among the tea sellers and the largest tea distributors in each of the three countries. Like Champagne, Darjeeling tea is strictly defined as having come from the region, specifically from a grower approved by the Tea Board of India, although countless imposters use the name anyway. This exclusivity has caused Darjeeling tea to become one of the most expensive blends in the world, having, at least once, sold for almost $2,000 a kilo. Generally a kilo of a more common tea sells for around $9.
Indian tea sellers have been allowing online participation in their tea auctions since 2008, but the Darjeeling blend was exempted due to its volatile price point. The seven major tea trading centers in India have been moving over 500 million kilograms of product a year through the online service, accounting for almost half of the country’s tea production, according to the Economic Times. And now that Darjeeling’s blend is in the mix, that number is only set to increase.
The hope is that by selling the rare tea online, the availability will help stabilize the price of the blend, which would make things easier across the board for India’s tea industry, and hopefully trickle down to the consumer market. By making the tea less exclusive, it is also hoped that the amount of tea claiming to be Darjeeling, but not actually hailing from the region, will also decrease.
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