The adventure began at the Bagdogra Airport, located in the West Bengal area, at an approximate distance of 65 kilometers from Darjeeling. The environment was extremely hot and humid at the time. Just after arriving, we traveled through the suburbs of Siliguri and visited Mr. Rajah Banerjee, who received us in a very pleasant way and treated us as his family. Additionally, he shared and educated us about some of the exceptional teas that he works with, called Rimpocha. Therefore, our tour of the land began with the guidance of Mr. Rajah Banerjee.
We continued our journey further and further into the mountains, along the way, I could see many advertisements promoting tea shops, and many other advertisements could be seen throughout the gardens located in the region. Furthermore, arriving in Darjeeling was not easy, the road was shaped by very sharp curves, and many of them quite dangerous. I learned that you need to be experienced enough with driving and be familiar with the roads to be able to advance at a reasonable speed; as well as, the horn became crucial to use to alert other vehicles coming in the opposite direction.
Finally, after a journey of two and a half hours, we arrived at the town of Darjeeling. When we arrived, we could feel that the energy of the environment and the people were drastically different from that of a larger city. Therefore, two thousand meters of height made a difference in many aspects, such as the climate was much more enjoyable, the food was different, and the physical features of the local people made you think that you were in a completely different location. After waiting for a long duration, it was time to visit a tea garden in Darjeeling. This was truly an unforgettable moment that I will cherish forever and it felt like I was reliving a beautiful dream. However, it was necessary to be there in person to understand its beauty in its entirety. As demonstrated, being able to touch a Camellia Sinensis that has grown in India, being in front of plants with an age of more than a hundred years old and whose leaves are still used for the production of tea, helped me to understand what Darjeeling means.
Unfortunately, it was not possible to see the whole process of the production of the most exclusive teas in India (Darjeeling 1st Flush) due to the lack of time, but I was amazed by the size of the leaves produced by the Chinese varietal, which were very small in size.
I was also astonished by the collectors’ skills to pick these beautiful leaves from the tea garden. Each collector had their own basket, and some were wearing gloves and boots while many others had no protection. But despite these differences, all the workers carried a smile from ear to ear, and an energy that could be noticed in each cup of tea served in all corners of the world. It was a challenging task due to all of the different factors that were part of the contour and that included the inclination of the mountain, the humidity, the direct rays of the sun at midday and the wet and slippery ground, among many other factors. The task of collecting the delicate leaves with care and perfection was not something that anyone could do, which was why the beauty and softness of women’s hands were crucial in carrying out this duty. The color of the local people’s skin was not the same after the countless days under the sun’s rays, but the smile on their faces was something that will never change. After the women collected the delicate leaves, then they must weigh the collected leaves contained in the baskets and then transport the leaves to the factory where the production process begins. Also, the leaves were scattered on the wilting beds, and we had to wait approximately eighteen hours in order to continue the next step, which was the rolling and crushing part, which was done using low-pressure machines so as not to fracture the leaves further. Once the rolling process was done, the oxidation process started. The leaves were accommodated in beds so that the oxidation was carried out evenly; the time was approximately two hours. Now it was time to apply heat to the leaves to dry them, and then we moved to the final process where the tea was separated by size in a semi-automatic process.
After each batch produced, a tasting was required to ensure the quality of the final product. We saw that it was possible to make a tasting of some of the teas produced in previous days in the same factory. We evaluated each one of the teas, and they warmly gave us an explanation of the differences between each of the teas. It was a very productive event, and we were surprised by the variation that exists between each batch produced independently that are from the same garden and processed in the same way. On our way to the Darjeeling Town, we again felt the rigor of the curves and the roads that were full of leaps. It was a delightful experience to remember, and above all, something I could recommend without any hesitation. In general, walking in the streets of the Darjeeling Town was lovely, and the friendliness of its inhabitants, as well as, the beauty of its surroundings was something you must experience if you visit India.