On Tuesday, a kilogram of a speciality Assam tea called “Golden Butterfly” was sold for Rs 75,000 at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC) — a new record.
“Golden Butterfly” is produced by Dikom Tea Estate. The tea was purchased by Assam Tea Traders, one of the oldest tea shops in Guwahati. According to growers, the tea is named such because only “the soft golden tips go into making this exceptionally rare and special tea”.
In a statement on Tuesday, Lalit Kumar Jalan, owner of Assam Tea Traders, said “Golden Butterfly” has an “extremely mellow and sweet caramel flavour”.
A flurry of records
Assam tea has, in fact, been repeatedly setting price records at auctions. Dinesh Bihani, secretary of the Guwahati Tea Auction Buyers’ Association, said GTAC is now the place where “records are meant to be broken and history is meant to be rewritten”.
On July 31, an Assam tea variety known as “Maijan Golden Tips” sold for Rs 70,501 per kilogram at the GTAC.
A day earlier, Manohari Gold Special tea was auctioned for Rs 50,000 per kg at the Centre.
In July 2018, the same Manohari Gold Special tea was auctioned for Rs 39,001/kg — GTAC had said then that the price was a world record.
However, in August itself, a variety from a garden in Arunachal Pradesh was auctioned at the GTAC for Rs 40,000 per kg.
Tea and auction centres
Assam accounts for nearly 55% of India’s tea production. The GTAC has 665 sellers, 247 buyers, and nine brokers, besides 34 warehouses, registered with it.
Auctions are held normally on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The GTAC has an auction hall but the entire process has been online for the last 8-9 years.
India has six tea auction centres — Kolkata (the oldest, set up in 1861), Guwahati (1970), Siliguri, Kochi, Coimbatore and Coonoor.
Any registered member of any auction centre can operate in any auction in any centre.
Buying and selling process
Buyers and sellers associated with the tea industry in Assam say auctioning is the best way to know the value of a tea. The indicators that buyers look at, include appearance, quality/strength of the liquid form, aroma, and “keeping quality”, i.e., how well the tea will keep if stored for a long time in a shop or godown.
The auctioning process involves the tasting of tea by tasters, who give their opinion on the quality of the leaf. The tea is taken from the garden to the warehouse, where brokers do the tasting and sampling. Their valuation data is then entered on the Tea Board of India’s auction website.