Darjeeling Tea Gardens
When you drink a cup of tea, ponder for a moment on the precision Skills required to produce the apparently simple dried tea leaf. It was the British who introduced tea production into north-eastern India in the 9th Century, using tea seed imported from China. In 1841 Dr Campbell raised his first tea brushes at his home in Darjeeling. Soon the government set up tea nurseries, whose bushes were planted in India’s first commercial tea gardens in 1852. By the 1870s, there were 113 tea gardens, and tea had joined other cash crops such as cotton, sugar, jute and coffee, which the British were producing in India for international trading. While Darjeeling planters continued to grow Chinese tea, considered by tea connoisseurs to be the champagne of teas, British adventurers clearing plots of thickly forested land to lay out gardens in Assam discovered a more robust local bush. Land was parceled out on almost uncharted maps of Kolkata, and many of men with dreams died before their boats reached Guwahati.
Those who survived faced a tough and isolated life, whose highlight was weekly gathering at a distant planters’ club. It changed little until the 20th century when the telephone and television arrived. Still known as tea planter, the gardens’ managers work a day that begins before sunrise and ends late. They must oversee their workforce, often composed of whole village transplanted from Bihar in Central India. They build temples and schools for them, and provide child care and medical care. To the workers, the manager is ma-bapu , the person to whom they bring disputes; who sits in the judgments, punishes, and even presides over marriages. Meanwhile, the manager also oversees the job of producing the tea, from trimming the bushes to deciding when to pluck the precious shoots, from keeping rouge elephants from trampling through the gardens to keeping standards high enough to satisfy the frequent visits of company tea taster.
During the season, women pluck the laves in the morning, delivering their basket to the on-site factory; they do a second picking in the afternoon. At the factory the fresh leaves immediately undergo a succession of carefully monitored processes: They are withered, rolled to bruise them and bring the juices to the surface, and then left to ferment to develop the flavor. They are then dried and sifted into evermore precise grades.
The bigger the leaf, the better the flavor ─ so the whole and unbroken leaves of Darjeeling’s Goldeb Flowery Orange Pekoe is the top grade, and Dyst, literally the tea dust is tea Dust is the cheapest. The tea is sent into auctions in great wooden chests, then onto the benders. Almost every tea is needs to be blended to produce the right balance of color, flavor, strength and perfume, and each country has its own preferred blend. Since Independence, ownership of tea gardens has moved into Indian hands, although there is still a strong British interest.
There also good numbers of budget as well as luxury Hotels in Darjeeling located near the tea gardens provides all the comforts and luxuries at best price tags. The travelers can also avail Darjeeling Tour Packages which include a stay at one of the finest hotels in Darjeeling, platter of meals and a cab service to commute with in the precincts of the region.
Updated on January 2009