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.
We love these old ads for "tea." This one appeared in Ann Arbor Argus, 13 March 1891.
In a classified ad in another newspaper this same article claimed also to "loosen the bowels, thus breaking a cold at once," adding, "It is inexpensive and entirely vegetable, therefore harmless." Pre-FDA claims are so wonderfully imaginative. ;)
On a cold winter day in January of 1842 two young German missionary families, the Wernickes and Stolkes arrived to Darjeeling, a densely forested and sparsely populated remote region of the Himalayas. Only seven years previous, the area had been taken on lease by the British colonialists from the Kingdom of Sikkim.
By 1871 Mandelli had become part-owner of a tea garden. He and WR Martin jointly bought Bycemaree, a tea garden near Siliguri in the plains. This would be part of what is now called the Terai tea growing region that borders Darjeeling tea district to its north. The expanding tea plantations were part of a tea juggernaut that the British Empire was to roll out soon through parts of India and Sri Lanka, eventually decimating the Chinese tea market for a century and more.
Lured by adventure and the prospect of fortune, the Darjeeling tea industry attracted some interesting characters. One such was Louis Hildebrand Mandelli Castelnuovo. Descendant of Count Castel-Nuovo, a Maltese aristocrat, Mandelli is reputed to have fought alongside the Italian hero Garibaldi, and fled to South America before making his way up to Darjeeling.
Nepal is one of the youngest tea producing nations in the world. It ranks 20th in the world in terms of total tea production according to 2012 data. Despite its young history, Nepal has earned a seat at the table with the “big boys” of tea.
So which tea did Queen Mary (1867-1953) so prize that she had to keep it locked in a cupboard?
According to James Norwood Pratt, pioneer of the current tea wave in the USA, it was "a fine Darjeeling with a pronounced muscatel flavor." This was the Queen Mary Tea Twinings sold as the personal choice of the late Queen Mary, he adds, in his book The Tea Lovers' Treasury.
A bit of internet "research" showed that Twinings had launched this tea in 1916 and discontinued it only in 2007, after over 91 years! It is amazing the brand lasted so long. But we amuse ourselves with the thought that they could have given it 10 more years and let it retire at a more auspicious and grand 100 years! That is if they had to drop this tea from their stable.
We just returned after a 10-day break in Florida. It was wonderful to exchange the frozen tundra of Rochester, NY for the sun and sand. However, this time instead of just lazing around on the beach my wife and I decided to explore the place. Since we were staying at Vero Beach, which forms part of the Florida's famed "Treasure Coast”, the easiest thing to do was - no prizes for guessing right - treasure hunting.