"From this majestic Darjeeling tea garden comes the 'Champagne' of Indian tea,
infused with pure mountain air"Sudhir Prakash
One of the finest tea estates in Darjeeling, a place where the magnificent peaks of the 3rd highest mountain in the world, Mount Kanchenjunga, ascend over the tea bushes: Glenburn. The name literally means what this 750-hectare estate is - A River Valley. Here in the hills of Darjeeling, tea rises out of the magical landscape, imbibing the essence of the eternal Himalayas. In the peace and tranquility of Glenburn, a flourishing community of people and tea bushes thrive as they have done together for the past 150 years, and many of the tea plants to which the workers tend have been around since the time of their ancestors. Glenburn produces some of the best loose Darjeeling tea on the market today.
Started by a Scottish Tea Company in 1859, Glenburn now belongs to one of India's pioneering tea planting families - The Prakashes, (who have over the years come to be known as The “Chaiwala Family”, which literally means “Tea Planters”) and is regarded by many as among the best Darjeeling tea estates.
Glenburn's tea is influenced by a wide spectrum of experiences from the type of soil and environment in which it grows, to the time of year during which it is plucked. The tea gets its share of both sunshine and rain.
Glenburn is nestled in 350 hectares of reserve forest that sprawls across the estate. Two snow-fed Himalayan rivers, The Rungeet and The Rung Dung, wind their way through the estate, nourishing Glenburn tea in their path. 350 women from Glenburn's 8 villages set out each morning to pluck fresh tea leaves. Their practiced gentleness in this exercise will influence the final essence of the tea. Every shoot that's plucked must remain as unblemished as possible to retain the qualities of the environment that nurtured it.
Home to our 700 worker families, Glenburn is a self-contained paradise of natural beauty; fruit trees, wild flowers, rare birds and honeybees are just some of the flora and fauna that inhabit the estate. Locals refer to the tea estate as Kimble, and legend has it that the spirit of Glenburn's first manager, Kimble Murray, is still walking these slopes, his soul unable to rest until the quest for a perfect cup of tea is complete. This sentiment is very much in-keeping with our family philosophy today:
"It's not just the rain and the sun... there's a soul there we have to look after and that's what gives our tea, Glenburn tea, that very special flavour"
– Sudhir Prakash
The speciality of Glenburn tea today is a flavour that has evolved through cross breeding of the best varieties of tea found in the Himalayas. It started with original China seed bushes and then the early planters brought out tea bushes from Assam, but what we've done in our Darjeeling Tea estate is to take the best of what we had a hundred years ago, and combine it with the best of today. In Sudhir’s words, "The strength of the old and the vitality of the young - the future of Glenburn is Clonal Tea!"
After a morning of hand picking the best shoots or "two leaves and a bud", by late noon its time for the day's gathering to reach the factory where it goes through a series of processes before becoming your cup of tea. About a thousand of the tender shoots make just a pound of tea.
About a thousand of the tender shoots make just a pound of tea. The fresh, unprocessed tea leaves contain more than 75% moisture. Most of this moisture is removed in the first process, called withering, simply by blowing air through the leaves. Glenburn's manager Parveez monitors each process with utmost care. The rolling process once done by hand is now mechanically accomplished. Here the cells are ruptured before the fermentation process begins. Fermenting is nothing but oxidation, whereby the tea acquires its flavour, strength and health giving properties. The manager's nose determines the time when fermentation should stop. Next, hot air is passed through the leaf so that it dries, thus preserving all the goodness until it reaches your teacup. Now the process is complete and the tea returns to the gentle hands of the women where it is skillfully sorted into different sizes for different markets. But before it is packed into tea chests, Glenburn tea must go through one final examination - the process of tasting. Can the fragrance of green tea fields and warm sunshine, of mountain breeze and fresh rain actually translate into one single essence? Come and taste your own perfect cup of Glenburn. It will intoxicate you with its tranquility and cheer you with its youthful taste. It is truly the champagne of teas.
The exquisite qualities of Glenburn tea manifest themselves distinctively during the growing season from March to November. As opposed to other crops, which may have one or two harvests in a year, the tea bushes are harvested on average every seven days, continually during this period. After a period of dormancy during the winter, in March the landscape changes and a fine layer of lime green colour covers the surface of the tea fields, almost like someone has lightly thrown a silk carpet over the bushes. These are the delicate shoots of the new tea season heralding the arrival of the prized Darjeeling First Flush tea. The tea is light, aromatic and lively with a lime green brightness following through to the cup. These spring teas of Glenburn are sold almost exclusively to the discerning international markets at premium prices.
From May onwards the famous Glenburn summer teas are produced. The colourful spring blossoms on the fruit trees are complemented with a rich yellowy green canopy that covers the bushes announcing the arrival of the Second Flush. After the late spring showers, the succulent tea leaves result in a very attractive final tea with a purplish bloom and a sprinkling of silvery tips (buds). Darjeeling Second Flush tea is mature and full-bodied with musk and nutty undertones, a character owing to the clonal plants selected to thrive in our unique Glenburn growing conditions.
Next comes the monsoon, when the hills become lush green and the cup becomes full of colour. From July to September, the estate is a frenzy of activity with perfect weather conditions producing the highest cropping months of the year. The Glenburn monsoon teas produced during these months form the bulk of the "breakfast" blends (for example, English Breakfast tea and Earl Grey), bringing a delicious flavour when blended with a stronger Assam tea. However, monsoon Darjeeling tea is also great drunk on its own, with perhaps a dash of milk and sugar to bring out the flavour even more.
The Autumn character makes its presence felt in late October and November. Similar to the Second Flush, but with a mature mellow touch, this is best described as an "encore" before the bushes go to sleep for the winter. They give us one good final performance for the year, so that we remember them for the next season. The tea takes on a light copper tinge and liquors have a delicate yet sparkling character with a sweet, fresh "nose", and a delightful flavour, distinct from both spring and summer teas.
In addition to these traditional black teas, our White tea, Oolong tea and Green Tea is produced at specific times of the year, when the utmost care can be taken to select the finest raw material for these precious teas. Parveez has produced some fine speciality teas such as Silver Needle, White Peony and Oolong Moonshine, that have been appreciated and won awards the world over.
Even within this broad categorisation of quality changes through the seasons, individual fields within Glenburn assert their personalities as distinctly recognisable entities. This complexity and variance, on almost a day-to-day basis, gives Glenburn, and the rest of the Darjeeling tea growing area, its legendary appeal:
"Glenburn Tea Estate is a unique geographical location that brings you a collection of teas that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world."