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Darjeeling's iconic Makaibari tea set to enter Dubai market

Economic Times:  July, 2015

Kolkata: Darjeeling's Makaibari tea, which fetched a price ofRs 1.11 lakh per kg last year, is poised to enter the Dubai market. The tea company is in talks with Dubai's upmarket luxury food chain Bateel to sell its teas where demand for premium quality tea is rising.

While coffee is considered the most favoured hot beverage in Dubai, tea sales are fast rising in the Gulf nation, helped by an influx of Arabic expatriates who are escaping countries like Syria, Lebanon and Egypt due to geopolitical tensions in those regions, said industry officials.

"We are hopeful to clinch a deal with Bateel in a month's time," said Rudra Chatterjee, director, Makaibari Tea Company. Makabiari has also launched its new portal through which buyers can directly source its finest teas from the garden itself.

"We have received a good response for this initiative," said Chatterjee. Makaibari is also being sold in dutyfree shops in Mumbai's international airport.

Makaibari also re-launched its packet tea under the brand name Apoorva for the connoisseurs of premium Darjeeling tea. Makaibari Tea had created a record by booking orders at a record price of $1,850 per kg (Rs 1.11 lakh) last year. The orders had come from tea importers in Japan, the UK and US. "We are hoping for a similar price in the current year as well.

Last time, the offer came around September, so there's still some time left," Chatterjee said. Makaibari tea estate in Kurseong area produces one lakh kg of tea and is one of the oldest tea estates in the district.

Its factory, set up in 1859, is the oldest tea manufacturing unit in the hills. Makaibari Tea was owned by the Banerjee family for four generations. Its present owner, Rajah Banerjee, sold 90% of his stake last year to city-based Luxmi Tea Company. Meanwhile, Darjeeling tea exporters are going through a rough patch as foreign buyers are refusing to compensate them for exchange rate losses.

About a year ago, the euro was at 80-84 to a rupee, but has slipped to about 69 at present. Though the pricing continues to be same in euro terms, in rupee terms, it means less income for sellers.