I left blistering hot Kolkata this morning and finally arrived at the home of some of the world’s most beloved teas. The prize of this journey. Darjeeling.
We started with one of the most interesting estates, Rohini. Interesting not only in the teas that are being produced, but also in the methods and varietals being used. The two main varietals of tea are the Chinese and Indian. The far less known type is from Japan and not generally seen outside that country, until today.
The region of Darjeeling is special and unique for so many reasons. One of them being that they are able to successfully grow the two main varietals in the same region. I suppose it isn’t a stretch for someone to try the third and find that it does indeed work.
Rohini however does not stop there. They are producing traditional Chinese teas such as Long Jing and Ti Kuan Yin. A walk through the factory also shows machinery such as drying beds, rollers and steamers, from China, Japan and Taiwan. They are taking the best methods and combining them to continue elevating the flavours of their teas. They are respecting the work of their fellow tradesmen and learning from them. Not something we see a lot of today.
With much anticipation and trepidation, I got in the car to continue the day’s journey to the town of Darjeeling. This is a trip that would take me from elevations of 1000 feet (Rohini) to 7100 feet (Darjeeling Town). All on a road barely wide enough for one car and yet managed to accommodate two way traffic, a small railroad as well as pedestrian traffic.
The car climbed and climbed higher and higher and for a moment I felt like Jack in the Beanstalk disappearing into the clouds. As the car struggled though, I though about my beautiful Darjeeling teas that I so enjoy. And I thought of the journey they go through to get to my cup. The people dedicated to the craft, hand picking teas on these very hills. The tea estate owner full of love and passion for a product he wants to keep relevant so that he can fulfill, the obligations he feels in his soul to the many families for whom he is responsible.
I looked at the houses built on these steep inclines appearing to be teetering over the edge. And I looked at the bricks and rails and flower pots and roof shingles that were all carried up this mountainside to create a community that in turn makes our teas. The teas that are then carried down that same mountainside to find its way to you and to me.
When you see that, all you can be is but filled with deep respect. Because anything else would be an insult to what goes into our beautiful Darjeelings.
Think of that the next time you sit with your cup. Despite our dreaded disease called ‘busyness’ we all have 1 minute in which we can just stop and pay respect.
I don’t think it was any great accident that the wife of the owner of Rohini thea estate handed me a small book by Dadi Janki, one of the founding members of Brahma Kumaris. The card with the book says “do not suppress your mind but uplift it with gentleness”. Seeing the first glimpse of these majestic mountains, I know that that gentleness is a part of the air and the spirit here. I pay respect.