Tocklai Tea Research Institute, the world’s oldest and the largest tea research center, applied a century of knowledge to produce its own tea. It has launched two varieties of tea in its moves to supplement its operating budget.
Two new yellow and green teas were formally launched on Sunday by chief minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal who was visiting Tocklai to lay the foundation for a tea tourism hub at the institute.
“This is yet another initiative by TRA Tocklai to generate revenue,” Prabhat Bezboruah, chairman of Tea Research Association, under which Tocklai functions, told World Tea News. “We will start commercial production of these specialty teas very soon,”
The new varieties have been produced from leaves from existing clones in the institute’s two experimental gardens – Tocklai and Borbheta – and will be labeled as “Tocklai Tea.” Scientists stress that they will be of very high quality because they are the output from extensive research.
Tocklai Director A.K. Barooah said that the initiative was taken after the state industry minister asked the institute to produced specialty tea which is growing in demand in the international market.
He noted that work at Tocklai on process optimization for specialty teas is a priority area and is being pursued by the biochemistry and tea processing and manufacturing advisory departments.
Tocklai Tea Research Institute is named after the river Tocklai in Assam, on whose banks it was set up in 1911. It has delivered yeomen’s service to the tea industry in India, helping to triple Assam’s tea output in the last half century. With cutting-edge research on best practices for tea cultivation and manufacturing, Tocklai has been instrumental in establishing Assam teas as premium in its category, worldwide.
The popular and market mainstay Irish Breakfast and English Breakfast tea blends are made using black tea from Assam.
Today, the institute is facing threats to its financial viability, mainly due to a lack of funding over the last few years from the Central government.
The government has urged the Institute to generate its own revenue to tide over the crisis.
TRA secretary Joydeep Phukan said that apart from producing its own tea brand, Tocklai is moving ahead on several other initiatives.
“One is we have increased our subscription from the tea industry by 100 per cent. Second, we are trying to have more and more laboratories for testing. Gradually, this has shown results. In another three-four years, we should be able to make up the difference. Third, we now plan to capitalize on the byproducts of tea. For instance, we can sell the tea extract, and we can help the pharmaceutical and neutraceutical industries who would like to have such products. Those are very high value. We are aiming to sell directly, both to companies and to countries overseas.”
A major innovation is the tea tourism hub whose foundation was laid at Tocklai on Sunday.
“Tocklai is a one-stop shop for tea tourism – a hub. Tocklai has two tea estates – one is 140 hectares and the other is 40 ha. Like in Darjeeling, visitors go out to see the sunrise, we can also make it experiential where tourists who come here can go and pluck their own leaf. We have a miniature factory as well as a bigger factory. Tourists can produce their own batch of teas, maybe visit Jorhat town as well. The ever-popular Kaziranga wildlife resort and largest riverine island Majuli is not too far away either,” the TRA secretary said. He noted that Tocklai has a beautiful guest house and British era bungalows.
The challenges for Tocklai are substantial. So, too, are its responses. Innovation for self-sufficiency adds to excellence in research and he stated new tie ups are being made with companies to work on the use of Artificial Intelligence, IOT, drones in enhancing tea productivity and quality.
Source: Tocklai Tea Research Institute