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Whether you ask an intrepid hiker in the foothills of Mussoorie or a weary corporate jockey in the underbelly of Mumbai, that first sip of warm, rich, aromatic chai changes something inside you – filling you up with the fortitude to “keep on going”. Not for nothing is tea, far and away, the most popular beverage in the world and comes second only to water.
In India, however, tea is more than just a hot beverage. It assumes the moniker of chai – and as this special word rolls of the tongue, you can almost feel the warmth of a friendly face giving you an encouraging wink to “keep on going”. It is a living, breathing entity, much like a family member. Chai wakes you up, gets you to work and keeps you there. Chai fuels those (mostly pointless) long meetings that meander into ciggy breaks that deconstruct those same meetings.
“Chal chai peete hain” signifies not so much a desire for tea as the need for companionship, gossip and social connection. When you’re bored, procrastinating, tired or frustrated – it is Chai you turn to. And finally, when you want to end a fight with a special someone and raise that white flag of reconciliation, placing a steaming hot cup of Chai in front of them speaks deeper and louder than the most articulate words could convey.
It is in this region of Upper Assam, in the Dibrugarh district, that the Jokai Tea Company was first established by the British in 1872. “Jokai” was a division of one of the largest gardens of Dibrugarh – the Bokel Tea Estate. Over the years, this division’s name changed to “Timona”, which in fact continues to be part of the Bokel Tea Estate till date.
Over the last 150 years, the Jokai Tea Company has been one of the flag bearers of export-quality tea grown in India and has witnessed some of the truly historical moments in India’s growth journey – from hosting Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in Panitola Tea Estate to being the recipient of India’s first HACCP certified tea factory (Hattialli Tea Estate in 1996).
Boasting legacy tea garden names such as Hattialli (of Harrod’s of London fame) and Panitola (the garden in which the famous P-126 tea clone was engineered), the Jokai Tea Company today runs 7 tea gardens in Assam and West Bengal, grows over 7 million kgs of Black, Green, White, Speciality and Artisanal Teas and employs over 12,000 people (over 57% women) across it’s land area of 21,000+ acres. Almost 90% of the company’s production is exported to 25+ countries and Jokai teas form the base for some of the most loved tea blends in the world.
From the House of Jokai, comes a very special tea brand called “Fearless” – the company’s foray into the consumer segment in it’s homeland – India. Fearless is a socially-conscious, proudly Indian tea brand and for every packet of Fearless Tea sold, one packet of sanitary napkins is donated to the women tea pluckers of Assam, without which the Indian Tea Industry would collapse.