Darjeeling tea has become the first product from India to be protected as a geographical indication (GI) in the European Union (EU), according to the Tea Board. With this, the Darjeeling tea confirms its position among the world's best known teas and the qualities of Darjeeling tea are now legally recognised and protected in India and in the EU, says the Board.

What it means

It means the name “Darjeeling” can only be used to denote tea grown in Darjeeling and which is processed in the typical Darjeeling style of manufacture in the factories situated within the specified gardens within the defined tea-growing area; and for which all steps of production, with the exception of packaging, (harvesting, drying and processing) has taken place in the defined area.

The registered name “Darjeeling” is protected in all the member States of the EU against:

(a) Any direct or indirect commercial use of the name Darjeeling in respect of tea or products comparable to tea or in so far as it exploits the reputation of the name Darjeeling;

(b) Any misuse, imitation or evocation even if the true origin of the product is indicated or accompanied by an expression such as ‘style', ‘type', ‘method', ‘as produced in', ‘imitation';

(c) Any other false or misleading indication;

(d) Any other practice liable to mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product.

Major victory

The registration of Darjeeling represents a major victory for all producers, plantation workers, worldwide connoisseurs and consumers of Darjeeling tea and marks the successful culmination of a long arduous journey spanning four years.

Filed in November 2007, the application for Darjeeling tea as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) under European law underwent normal lengthy administrative procedures before the European Commission.

More importantly, the application stood up to fierce objections from France, Germany, Italy, Austria and the UK on behalf of the different national members of the European Tea Committee (ETC).

Among other objections, ETC, representing EU tea blenders, claimed that the reputation of Darjeeling tea had been achieved by the EU tea blenders and not the producers and plantation workers.

Rejecting the objections, the European Commission held:

(i) That the savoir-faire and acquired skills employed by producers as well as the pedo-climatic features and geographical environment of the geographical area of Darjeeling (natural drainage of the soil, complex combination of very high rainfall and continuous low temperatures) significantly affect Darjeeling tea's characteristics which constitute the core of its reputation;

(ii) The name “Darjeeling” should only be used as a sales designation for tea grown and processed in accordance with the PGI. That means that, to be called “Darjeeling tea”, tea must be grown and dried in the Darjeeling area by traditional methods. The tea may be packaged outside of Darjeeling and teas from different Darjeeling tea gardens may be blended;

(iii) Tea which is a mixture of Darjeeling with other teas cannot bear the name “Darjeeling”;

(iv) Tea not conforming with the Darjeeling PGI specification can still be called “Darjeeling tea” for a transitional period of five years but only if that tea had been legally marketed in the EU for at least five years prior to October 14, 2009; this is, for example, applicable to green or white Darjeeling tea, but not to mixtures of Darjeeling tea with teas of others origin misleading the consumer;

(v) There is no proof of any generic status of the name “Darjeeling”.

santanu@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 6, 2012)
XThese are links to The Hindu Business Line suggested by Outbrain, which may or may not be relevant to the other content on this page. You can read Outbrain's privacy and cookie policy here.