A costly cup: rare ‘golden’ Assam tea auctioned for record $1,314 per kg

Manohari Gold went under the hammer at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre

The leaves are plucked only in June and July and the buds are hand-rolled for 16 hours. Photo: Rajan Lohia
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A hand-plucked, golden-hued tea could make for a costly cuppa after selling for $1,314 a kilogram at an auction in India.

Manohari Gold, grown in Assam, went under the hammer at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre in the state on Tuesday.

The tea was first processed in 2018 as an experiment by the Manohari Tea Estate in eastern Dibrugarh city. It initially cost about 39,100 rupees ($511) but the price has risen and last year it sold for 75,000 rupees a kilogram.

The batch auctioned off will be sold on for the equivalent of about $24,000 a kilogram.

Estate owner Rajan Lohia said the golden brew and soothing aftertaste of the tea made it unique.

“The tea is made from the leaves … from the one-day-old tea buds which are plucked before the sunrise. It is sophisticatedly and delicately hand-rolled. It is an art,” Mr Lohia told The National.

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“The tea is very rare and cannot be made as much as we want as the making procedure is tough and weather are very important. There are limited buds. It is a very costly affair,” Mr Lohia said.

The tea is the brainchild of the company’s senior planter.

Unlike a regular tea where leaves are plucked, the workers harvesting leaves for Manohari Gold painstakingly hand-pluck new buds before sunrise. The buds are then hand-rolled for 16 hours.

Occupying 400 hectares, the Manohari Tea Estate has 650 staff, but only a few have been trained to work on this variety.

Plucking takes place in June and July.

Even on a good day, the slower harvesting process means a worker can pluck only 70g to 80g of leaves, compared with 20kg of regular tea leaves within the same period.

Mr Lohia said that about 80g of buds was needed to produce about 18g of the finished product.

“The colour of the tea looks like a piece of gold. It is very rare, and we produce only 2-3 kilograms per year,” Manto Aggarwal, the the company’s legal adviser, told The National.

“We had requested them to increase the [production] cap this year as the manufacturing of our tea is very costly.”

Mr Aggarwal said the company was thrilled by the latest sale.

“We are delighted with the auction price … we manufactured this tea as an experiment in 2018 and, since then, there has been a huge demand for it.”

Updated: December 16, 2021, 12:55 PM