Lakyrsiew Tea Garden

Lakyrsiew is a small organic garden located in the hills around Shillong, the capital of the state Meghalaya (meaning "home of the clouds") in India’s remote northeast. It is owned by Meghalayan native, Nayantara, and her Dutch husband Geert Linnebank.

The garden has been producing tea since 2008 but its historical links to the tea industry goes back to the 1840s. It was at this time that the East India Company first identified the local climate and soil as ideal for cultivating tea. However, the project was later abandoned due to local tribal rules that prevented outsiders from working on the land.

Almost two centuries later, the Linnebanks discovered these plans and decided to plant tea on Nayantara’s ancestral land. They began planting tea in 2002 on virgin scrubland and have cultivated organically from the start.

Tea bushes here include a mixture of slow-growing Darjeeling cultivars and some Chinese plants from the era of the East India Company that the couple discovered locally.

TERROIR

Meghalaya, whose name means “home of the clouds” in Sanskrit, is known for its heavenly valleys and dense forests. It is surrounded by the Khasi Hills to the south and neighbours the flat plains of Assam to the north. It receives some of the heaviest rainfalls in the world.

Lakyrsiew Tea Garden is situated on a sweep of hill at an elevation of between 1000 and 1300m, that descends towards Lake Umiam. The garden receives heavy rains during the monsoon season and also benefits from its own spring which gives clean, sweet water all year round. The mists of the lake protect the garden from drought during the dry season.

In this unique environment with its rich fertile soil, slow growing Darjeeling cultivars thrive. The result is very delicate and fine teas. The garden earned an organic certification in 2010.

THE REGION

Meghalaya is situated in India’s northeast, that irregular area on the map between China and Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan.  It used to be part of Assam which is to the north, but became a separate state in 1972.

Meghalaya could be described as one of India’s forgotten tea producing regions. This lush subtropical area was first identified by the East India Company as an ideal region for tea growing but they were unable to come to agreement with local Khasi tribal chiefs, and any plans to grow tea were abandoned.

It was not until 1974 when the Tea Board of India recognised the potential of the area. The Board recommended that Assamica seedlings should be sown on the low flat plains that border Assam, and that the sinensis varietals from Darjeeling should be planted on the high misty slopes at elevations between 900 and 1600m.

Since then entrepreneurial farmers with the help of government schemes, have helped established many tea startups in the state, unburdened by colonial era baggage that other states, namely Darjeeling and Assam, are now struggling with. They are also benefit from rich fertile soil that has not suffered from centuries of rigid plantation agriculture.