First tea trip ever, driving about 3 hours from Jakarta to Bandung and then 4 more to the tea estate. Not to worry we had a mini break in Bandung at a potential tea source central office. We met the owner and different managers of this company and were treated to fresh cup of tea. We then began the 4-hour drive to the garden, stopping briefly at a mountainside restaurant for a delicious meal of vegetables, chicken soup, chicken satay, and a cassava dessert.
There were strawberries and onions growing together, lots of terracing, and many tea gardens (some owned by the government, small farmers, and private estates). Chakra falls into the 3rd category. They have 600 hectares of tea gardens, a hydropower plant that supplies power to the factory, village, and guesthouse. The plantation employs 700 people.
The plants are grown on the sides of the mountains. There are trees strategically placed and seasonally pruned to provide the right amount of shade or sun on the tea plants and tea is picked year round. This is family owned estate since its purchase from the Dutch when the country became independent (1936). The estate is in the middle of a national rainforest reserve. The estate itself is accredited by HACCP for its state of the art environmental management. The local wildlife is comprised of various birds, insects, eagles, monkeys, flying squirrels, black panthers, snakes, and tigers. The house remains the same as is it was built. The weather at the garden was misty and cool at night and warm sunny days
My mom and I arose at 7:00am, we walked for about 30min through the garden, met a tea garden manager, saw some people plucking the leaves, chemical and pesticide free areas, and new sapling tea plant growing areas. They use the leaves from a palm tree to mulch the area around the new saplings to protect them from weather and bugs. Strategically located throughout the garden are tall trees. These trees are allowed to grow during the summer to provide the tea plants with the necessary shade and in the rainy months they are cut back to allow more sun.
After hiking through the garden we reached the river and the waterfall. It was beautiful and such a fun experience to have breakfast there. Along the walk we were able to see a few eagles and monkey (it was black and had a white belly) hanging from the tree. It was really cool and I was glad that it was so remote. After eating breakfast we went and saw the hydropower dam which supplies electricity to their factory and the houses in the village.
My mom and I were asked to plant a tree in memory of our visit. They ask all visitors to do this as a way of giving back to nature. I hope to see it as a grown tree someday! After planting the tree we were taken to the factory and participated in a professional tea cupping and tasting. This was a great experience learning how to taste tea and cup tea.
After tasting the tea, we suited up to go into the factory. We had to remove our shoes and use special booties. Seeing the machines that dry, fire, roll, and sort the leaves brought home the whole process for Chariteas. There was one machine that sorted one type of tea into different grades ranging from premium quality to fannings/dust. This began a beautiful journey of sourcing tea that continues to this day. By far, this place holds special meaning in the life of Chariteas as this the garden that began it all.