Margarete’s Hope is one of the most esteemed and successful tea gardens in India. It has gained global renown for its divine Darjeeling teas – in particular its 2nd flush – whose flavour profile has no rival. The splendid, sprawling gardens have known a tumultuous past and the estate was practically born from a great tragedy over 150 years ago. Like many wonders or successes in the world, Margaret’s Hope did not become a global centre of Darjeeling production by mistake. Its history, location and management have all played their parts.
A Touch of History
The garden was first established in the mid-19th century, quietly and without any real spotlight. At the turn of the 20th century, this little garden was known as Bara Ringtong and was producing some stunning Darjeeling tea. The then-manager of the garden, Mr Bagdon, was so proud of his estate he had his daughter make the long, potentially dangerous, trip from Britain just so she could see it.
Lovely Margaret fell completely in love with the rolling hills, soft ground and endless swathes of green. Besotted, she resolved to come back once she had finished school. Alas, a tragedy struck and she died on the return voyage. Mr Bagdon was driven nearly mad with grief, but managed to stay afloat by committing himself entirely to the plantation. His fervent passion and love helped it thrive into the globally famed tea estate we know today. And, as you’ve probably surmised, he named it after his beautiful, inspiring daughter.
Today, Margaret’s Hope is the largest tea garden in all of Darjeeling. Though it may have been christened in grief, it now thrives in prosperity.
The Unique Environment of Margaret’s Hope
In no way taking away from the drive and brilliance of plantation managers – nor the back-breaking exertions of the field workers – over the years, there is one person above all others whom we must thank: Mother Nature.
Margaret’s Hope is a unique place. In the whole world, even its closest neighbours, there is no environment which can produce this same tea. There are two gorgeous rivers which freely run through the area. The hills produce tea plants anywhere from 900-1800 metres altitude; this offers a range of subtle taste differences for the same teas!
Growing in the varying altitudes of the West Bengal hills, where the temperature is that bit cooler than the neighbouring gardens, the plants grow more slowly than elsewhere. Consequently, there is less output than you might normally expect; for a luxury product like the 2nd flush Darjeeling, this means high demand! For those who know their black teas, the 2nd flush Darjeeling from Margaret’s Hope is one of the most highly coveted, and it’s not hard to see why.
The Champagne of Tea
Part of the Chinese Jat genus of plants, the fields are resplendent in soft greens. The plants also bring a wonderful, fresh fragrance which you can enjoy anywhere on the estate (or in your own home). The taste is often likened to that of Muscat grapes, though more subtle than the harsh muscatel associated with some other teas. It is black, however it is quite a sensitive tea. Steep it carefully – without overdoing it – and you will enjoy a beautiful, balanced cup every time. It is the colour of clear amber, smooth and full-bodied.
An Eco-Friendly Estate
In a world where humans are often made obsolete at the hands of machines, and pollution is eradicating wildlife at an unprecedented rate, Margaret’s Hope is a beacon of light. For over a hundred years now, they have been harvesting hydroelectricity to power their estate. The original turbine is even preserved on-site, a reminder of the garden’s goal to remain eco-friendly for its whole lifetime.
They have also developed a system of seamlessly combining traditional planting and farming methods with modern conveniences. All of the tea is picked by hand, as it remains the more effective system to preserving quality and minimising waste. Another fine example of traditional work is the use of zip lines to transport leaves from the top of hills to the bottom. It is fast, effective and completely emission-free!
Nowhere is Margaret’s Hope’s commitment to eco-friendliness more evident than in the massive biodiversity of the estate. There are insects, mammals, birds, fish and reptiles of all kinds living their lives in the garden. There is even a thriving population of wild salamanders, which are rare, ancient reptiles which used to rub shoulders with Jurassic dinosaurs over 150 million years ago!
The Greatest Asset of All: the Workforce
There’s more to any tea estate than simply the leaves. Margaret’s Hope garden not only takes pains to ensure that the tea is organically farmed and the estate is self-sustaining, but it also makes life as enjoyable as possible for its workers.
Housed in lovely accommodation, the men and women who cultivate the tea leaves report being happy, content and satisfied with their work. They have doctors on call in case of emergencies and there’s a real sense of pride among the workforce. Darjeeling 2nd flush is a magnificent tea, but it wouldn’t exist without the constant hard work and skill of each and every worker in the garden.
By keeping everyone happy and running the estate so well, Margaret’s Hope are setting themselves up for a very bright future, and keeping our ravenous desire for one of the world’s finest teas well satisfied.