The clichés were sounding a little tired -and tiring: Darjeeling teas are the best in the world; they are the "Champagne of Teas"; they are the world's most expensive teas; etc., etc., etc. At one level, all these statements were (and remain) true. But at another level, these rah rah descriptions almost mocked the harsh reality that existed at these gardens. Most of them were losing money, they had little control over the geographical indication "Darjeeling Tea", and the future seemed bleak.
Then things began to turn-almost by chance. In 1988, T'Classic (Darjeeling) Pvt Ltd, which owned the famous Makaibari Tea Estate, faced a major cash crunch; it couldn't afford to buy fertilisers and pesticides. Result: it began experimenting with locally sourced organic inputs. Says Rajah Banerjee, the fourth generation scion of the family that runs the world's oldest single-owner tea estate: "It was partly compulsion and partly a conscious decision.