For the Lohia family at the helm of Chamong Tee Exports, the business of tea is a passion that has passed on like a family heirloom across six generations.
Since the acquisition of its first tea garden in Assam in 1916, the company has grown in size and scope at a brisk pace to emerge as one of the leading tea exporters from India. The company is now the largest producer of organic tea in both the Assam and Darjeeling tea regions. Total production of Darjeeling tea is around 1,535 metric tonnes (MT) and production of Assam tea is around 2,070 MT. Chamong has thirteen estates in Darjeeling and five estates in Assam. In Darjeeling, the gardens are located in the Rongbong Valley, Golden Valley, Lebong Valley and Teesta Valley while in Assam, the company’s gardens are concentrated in the upper Assam region.
Ashok Kumar Lohia, Chairman, Chamong Tee Exports, is particularly passionate about the uniqueness of Darjeeling tea. When asked about the distinctness of the tea, he comments, “The Darjeeling tea industry and Darjeeling tea quality are world famous. The DNA is in the the soil itself. Then there is a geographical location where you have longitudes and latitudes dividing the region and the sun and moon having their effects in particular blocks. And the effects are different. Somehow the location of this block has been blessed by the sun, which produces the Muscatel flavour of Darjeeling. It is truly a creativity of nature.” One distinct advantage for Chamong is that all its thirteen tea gardens in Darjeeling are classified as high elevation.
Furthermore, in tune with age old Indian agricultural traditions that relied on the use of natural bio-resources, Chamong has maintained a steadfast commitment to organic farming. All its gardens except for one are under organic cultivation wherein chemical inputs are avoided in the farm as well as in the processing facility. The company now produces around 2,855 MT of organic tea per annum, which not only has a richer taste but is also beneficial from the health perspective. The company has also commissioned a fully automatic blending and packaging unit in Kolkata for hygienic blending and packing of tea in accordance with EU regulations and HACCP standards. On integrating organic methods into the entire cycle, Mr Lohia informs, “At Chamong, we have updated our factories with modern machines and innovations, reduced costs and improved quality. We introduced dehumidifiers as tea is hygroscopic and moisture is your biggest enemy. Our cultivation methods are quality oriented and not crop (quantity) oriented.”
Today, Chamong exports its tea to major tea consuming nations in Europe and also to UK, Japan, USA and the Middle East. The company has been appreciated for its commitment to eco-friendly methods, worker welfare, high quality and flexibility with respect to customer requirements, which have enabled it to take an enviable position across key markets.