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Blending Two Cultures Produces Unique Green Tea

John Grams

The Chota Tingrai Tea Estate first had a vision for green tea in the 1980’s. Decades later, as Avantika and her brother Mritunjay (MRTJ) set the direction for the Estate, the process came to life. It was Avantika’s vision that converted the Chota Tingrai Estate to organic. Her brother led the effort to produce natural and organic green teas.

They felt that by merging best practices from two cultures, they could create an outstanding green tea.

Japanese tea processing technology is the best in the world. But Avantika’s organic processes and the Chota field team add their own dimension.

The Japanese believe that human hands should never touch the tea. They developed equipment to avoid that contact. But the Jalans knew machines cannot master the precise art of plucking tea. Mana’s dedicated gatherers take just the top two leaves and bud from the plant. Observant eyes select and capture the new young leaves, pinching them off the plant with delicate fingers. They avoid that third leaf, which would add a coarseness to the tea. Their hands don’t damage the tender growth. Machines simply can’t do that.

Avantika explains, “We nurture every tea plant with 100% organic compost generated on the estate.” By bringing together the hand-selected, premium Assam leaf with the Japanese factory processing, Chota Tingrai has created an unsurpassed natural and organic green tea. Their sustainable practices have earned and maintained the TrustTea Certification since 2016.

The vision for green tea started with MRTJ, Avantika and their father Morgan. He worked with his friend, Shoji Haras, a tea master who comes from a Japanese tea family and holds several patents in green tea processing. Guided by Shoji-san, Morgan planted Japanese varieties at Chota Tingrai. Then the two built bamboo machines to steam the tea leaves in the Japanese tradition. Morgan never did take the green tea to market. But with MRTJ's interest decades later, Morgan invited Mr. Haras to return to Chota Tingrai.

With that introduction, Chota Tingrai began plans for a comprehensive Japanese-style green tea factory. The project was headed by MRTJ and Simi Baruah, the woman chosen to ultimately run the operation.

Avantika and MRTJ had recognized Simi as a bright and high energy employee full of potential. With Avantika’s influence, Simi was the first woman ever accepted to the Dibrugarh University Tea Course and became a role model for other young women to join the factory as team leaders.

Mana Organics Green Tea Factory Together MJ and Shoji built a factory to push the boundaries of tea, as Morgan and Shoji had imagined decades before. They identified the top-of-the-line green tea machines needed. Eleven forty-foot containers were shipped to India for the project. It took 2 months for the containers to arrive. But when they did, under Shoji-san’s guidance and a combined team of Japanese and Indian engineers, the factory was assembled.

In that process, Simi demonstrated an aptitude for working with the equipment. Soon the Japanese engineers began calling her ‘Sensei’.

The vision for the Jalan family came to life. It took Shoji-san, a man of insight and drive, along with engineers from both Japan and India, to train factory workers. An engaged team of organic growers and pluckers harvested tea for the first summer of green tea production.

Nowhere else in India does such a green tea factory exist. Nowhere in Japan are tea leaves so skillfully and carefully nurtured and hand-picked. Nowhere else is green tea made like this.

“With green tea, we do not wither the leaves. We process them immediately to minimize damage to the leaf. By reducing the chemical breakdown our green tea is ‘lighter’ with a lower caffeine content,” MRTJ explained.

There is little to no fermentation with green tea. Immediately upon arrival at the factory, the leaves are steamed, then carefully slow-dried. Chota uses a series of three dryers to nurture the leaves through this process. It may be the most important part of the manufacturing. Steaming and slow drying is what maintains the antioxidants and makes green tea such a healthy drink. Steaming is traditional in Japan, but unique to Chota Tingrai and throughout Assam.

“What surprised all of us, was that the organic Assam leaf behaved very differently to the steaming and drying than Japanese sencha,” MRTJ noted. “Tea Master Yanagawa was fascinated as the unbroken leaves twisted together in a curly pattern,” he said. This unique reaction led to the tea’s moniker, Super Twist.

The tea itself was also different. It was unlike any tea the Jalan and Haras’ families had experienced in their multiple generations of growing tea. Avantika Jalan described the tea as “light and fruity and vegetal. The refreshing flavor of grilled green vegetables. Like summer corn. The flavor fills the mouth, then subdues to a clean, mellow, sweet taste at the end of the sip .”

It is a beautiful Japanese style green tea, made with premium Assam leaf. Japanese manufacturing. Indian leaf. Organic practices. State of the art technology. All created by men and women from around the world…working together. It is a unique green tea that will hold its place among other selections from Japan and China.

Along with Super Twist, Chota Tingrai produces Gunpowder and roasts a fascinating and authentic Hoji Cha. “We did not create a green tea at Chota just to enter the market. We created our green tea to provide passionate tea drinkers a unique tea that blends the best of two tea-loving cultures,” MRTJ explained.

About Mana Organics

Chota Tingrai is a USDA organic estate in the Assam valley of India. We produce an organic, single estate tea in an array of grades. Mana Organics is a US sister company that supplies organic and natural teas to North America.

Our Director, Avantika Jalan, is the 4th-generation of a tea-grower family. Her great-grandfather Murleidhor Jalan is recognized as the first Indian founder of a tea estate, starting the family business in 1924. Today, the family also runs the Dinjoye Tea Estate and Durrung Tea Estate, one of the oldest in Assam, started in 1864.

Avantika oversees the estate with her husband John and a team that uniquely includes two women field managers, a woman to run the green tea factory and two women that manage the business office.

Community Development at Chota Tingrai is managed by three women who advance our social mission. Chota Tingrai is home to 2200 people. We are a small town, operating two elementary schools, a hospital, a library, public utilities and housing. Part of our mission is to shape this community into a self-sufficient, sustainable and healthy society.

Avantika and John both hold a Master of Development Practice from UC Berkeley. Their passion is as much about community development as it is tea. And they make an exceptional tea.

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