While the Wernickes ran a much larger tea enterprise, it was the Stoelkes who were the first to venture into the fledgling industry. Joachim Stoelke, a first generation settler, set up Steinthal Tea Estate in his homestead of 45 acres, located just below Darjeeling town in the early 1850s. It was one of the first tea estates to be set up in the hills.
Joachim Stoelke was around 41 when he started Steinthal, and although had fallen out of the Baptist mission that originally brought them to the place he must have continued to preach independently. The tea estate even today is often called "Padri Kaman", or the priest's tea garden, by the locals.
Around the middle of the 19th Century, the British colonialists launched a massive effort to grow tea in India. They wanted to break the monopoly of China in the tea trade once and for all; trafficking opium into China had been only an interim measure. (Britain had been pumping opium into China to get back the silver bullions that it had paid for the tea.)
One day in 1888, accompanied by his two little boys, Andrew Wernicke went down to Pandam tea estate, located below Darjeeling town on the northern slope. He had just bought the “rifle range” part of the estate. Upon arrival at the factory some old workers asked Andrew Wernick for a sign by which they might recognize him as the new owner. Wernicke reached for a branch of a nearby tree and broke it. “This simple procedure was enough to satisfy them,” recalled one of the sons later.