Title: Darjeeling – A History of The World’s Greatest Tea
Author: Jeff Koehler
How long it took me to read: A day (with several cups of tea)
About: Darjeeling’s tea bushes stretch across a picturesque landscape steeped in religious, sacred and mythical history. Planted at high elevation in the heart of the Eastern Himalayas, in an area of northern India bound by Nepal to the west, Bhutan to the east and Sikkim to the north, the rows of brilliant green, waist-high shrubs that coat the steep slopes and valleys around this Victorian ‘hill town’ produce only a fraction of the world’s tea, and less than one per cent of India’s total. Yet the tea from this limited crop, with its characteristic bright, amber-coloured brew and muscatel flavours – delicate and flowery, with hints of apricots and peaches – is generally considered the best in the world.
This is the story of how Darjeeling developed its prodigious tea industry under Imperial British rule and eventually came to produce some of the highest-quality leaves in the world. It is a fascinating portrait of the region from the days of the Raj to that of the ‘voodoo farmers’ of the present day, who get world-record prices for their fine teas, all set against the backdrop of the looming Himalayas and drenching monsoons. It is a story rich in intrigue and empire, full of adventurers and unlikely successes in culture and religion, ecology and terroir, and one that began with one of the most audacious acts of corporate smuggling in history.
It is also the tale of how the industry had spiralled into decline by the end of the twentieth century, and how this paradisiacal spot in the high Himalayas seethes with union unrest and a violent struggle for independent statehood. It is on the front line against the devastating effects of climate change and decades of harmful farming practices, a war that is being fought in some tea gardens – and, astonishingly, won – using radical methods.
My Thoughts: Darjeeling is a little heaven in itself with scenic beauty to behold you for a lifetime. Add to it the world’s best plantation of tea and the air surrounding becomes simply splendid. This book is a perfect mix of historical facts and has detailed description supported by stories that make it such a good read.
Darjeeling produces the most expensive tea in the world with bidders going higher every time. That’s something worth reading about. Overall an enjoyable read for lovers of tea and of the beautiful place-Darjeeling.
It is a wonderful read for anyone who loves tea and wants to spend a relaxed day reading a good book with their favourite tea by their side.
My Favourite parts in the book: I loved the little details and stories shared by the author. It made me appreciate and value the efforts of people involved in process. This book contains recipes to go with tea and I can’t wait to try these out – especially when December-January is the best time to do that!
Going to stay on my Bookshelf? Yes. Drinking tea is going to be a lot different experience after reading this book.
I have to admit, I love dhaba chai that is kadak and high on flavors and simply terribly overcooked in the same tea leaves from morning to evening. Upon reading the book, I have opened up all the tea packs I received as gifts on and around Diwali & bought some more to try and experiment with flavors.
P.s. You have to pick this book and try out the Fruit Chai by yourself! Here is the link for Amazon.in for Hardcover book.