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Auction for Darjeeling Tea goes Online, will not be “hand-gaveled” Anymore

The first trial plantation of seed was planted at an altitude of 700 ft. by Dr A Campbell and an experimental nursery was set up in Darjeeling in 1845

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A tea estate in Darjeeling. Image Source: Firstpost (Jeff Koehler)
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  • Darjeeling tea comes from only about 87 estates producing about 8 million kilos out of which 2.5-3 million goes directly under Choudhury’s gavel
  • Darjeeling was the last to give into the digital auctioning which took over all the other varieties of tea
  • The first trial plantation of seed was planted at an altitude of 700 ft. by Dr A Campbell and an experimental nursery was set up in Darjeeling in 1845

Darjeeling tea, the most sought after and highly valued tea is still manufactured using the “Orthodox” method instead of the curling, tearing and crushing (CTC) method followed in the plains. The combination of natural factors like the cool and moist climate, the rainfall and the sloping terrains, the soil and not to mention the people of the land makes the tea unique in all aspects. But this year, there has been a slight change in the rituals generally performed. In June the last gavel fell on the live auctions of Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling was the last to give into the digital auctioning which took over all the other varieties of tea.

“Personally, it completely seemed like the sky had fallen. Very few auctioneers wear ties anymore. We ensure we look the way we looked 30 years ago, ”says Anindyo Choudhury Choudhury took who is now probably the last manual auctioneer standing. Choudhury is the auctioneer for J Thomas, the oldest and largest tea auctioneer and broker in the world who has been selling tea since 1861. His office in Kolkata is lined with bound volumes of the Cochin Tea Market report and Monthly Tea Reviews dating back to the 1970s, said the Firstpost report.

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Darjeeling tea comes from only about 87 estates producing about 8 million kilos out of which 2.5-3 million goes directly under Choudhury’s gavel. The rest are sold through private deals. But 40 million kilos are sold on the market as Darjeeling.  “Our company sells about 200 million kilos of tea a year,” says Choudhury. “Only 2.5 million is Darjeeling. But the time it takes to sell that 2.5 million kilos is more than what it takes to sell the other (almost) 200 million. It takes that much nurturing,” says Choudhury to the Firstpost.com.

Tea Garden. Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Choudhury knows most of the people who come every Tuesday to bid. He coaxes the process along, sometimes pausing to gently rib them. He even scolds the buyers if their bid is low. These three million kilos were what held the giant industry as a heritage, a tradition. The relationship between the auctioneer and the buyers and the tea and its people is what made Darjeeling tea special. And now, it has become mechanical in many ways. It may have become more efficient, and may even sell at higher rates but the one ritual that connected the tea to its lovers has become replaced.

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Now, tea buyers can log in from around the country to make a bid. But, J Thomas will have to send out more free samples ahead of time putting a strain on an already tight market. It will also mean that there is going to be a lot of silence- no more noises or squawking, just people looking at computer screens and pushing a button, states the article.

The first trial plantation of seed was planted at an altitude of 700 ft. by Dr A Campbell and an experimental nursery was set up in Darjeeling in 1845. Mazumdar, a tea producer and buyer told Firstpost, that Darjeeling is the “biggest and best-organised gift by the Britishers to India.”

-This report is modified by Ajay Krishna, a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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  • Aparna Gupta

    As India is heading towards digitization with its Digital India Programme, it is a great initiative This would ensure larger participation and good rates.

  • AJ Krish

    Rituals followed for years are hard to replace. The human touch and the link between buying and selling is now taken over by machines. It is difficult for those who have witnessed and been part of the auctioning to accept the change.

SHARE
  • Aparna Gupta

    As India is heading towards digitization with its Digital India Programme, it is a great initiative This would ensure larger participation and good rates.

  • AJ Krish

    Rituals followed for years are hard to replace. The human touch and the link between buying and selling is now taken over by machines. It is difficult for those who have witnessed and been part of the auctioning to accept the change.

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Neil Armstrong’s Collection Goes to Auction: One Giant Sale

Bids can be taken online, by phone or in person

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Neil Armstrong
FILE - Neil Armstrong waving in front, heads for the van that will take the crew to the rocket for launch to the moon at Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Fla., July 16, 1969. (VOA)

Admirers of Neil Armstrong and space exploration have a chance to own artifacts and mementos that belonged to the modest man who became a global hero by becoming the first human to walk on the moon.

The personal collection of Armstrong, who died in his native Ohio in 2012, will be offered for sale in a series of auctions handled by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, beginning November 1-2 and continuing in May and November 2019.

The collection includes a variety of artifacts from Armstrong’s 1969 lunar landing and private mementos that include pieces of a wing and propeller from the 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer that the astronaut took with him to the moon.

Other items that went to the moon with Armstrong include a U.S. flag, the largest size typically flown during Apollo missions; a United Nations flag; various state flags; and some Robbins Medallions. The sterling silver medallions were paid for by the crews of Apollo missions and were available for purchase only by NASA astronauts. Armstrong’s collection also includes a rare gold medallion.

Among the more personal items to be auctioned are a Purdue University centennial flag from Armstrong’s alma mater that traveled on Apollo 11 and his Boy Scout cap.

Armstrong’s son, Mark Armstrong, said his father never talked to him about what he wanted done with the large amount of items he kept.

“I don’t think he spent much time thinking about it,” Armstrong said. “He did save all the items, so he obviously felt they were worth saving.”

Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong.

Armstrong, who lives in suburban Cincinnati, said his father did keep all of his “flown” items together.

Faced with the responsibility of conserving, preserving and insuring irreplaceable items and honoring their father’s legacy, Armstrong and his brother, Rick, found that some things needed restoration, and that some required research to be properly identified.

“We felt like the number of people that could help us identify them and give us the historical context was diminishing and that the problem of understanding that context would only get worse over time,” he said.

The Armstrongs turned to Sarasota, Florida-based Collectibles Authentication Guaranty for help with preserving and authenticating the artifacts and memorabilia and chose Heritage Auctions for the sales.

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Greg Rohan, president of Heritage Auctions, said it handles numerous categories of collectibles that appeal to various collectors, but items connected with space seem to have a universal appeal.

“Space is one of the very, very few categories that every single person seems to be interested in,” Rohan said. “You show somebody something from the space program, and they are fascinated by it.”

Bids can be taken online, by phone or in person. (VOA)