There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea— Bernard-Paul Heroux
How very true that quotation is! I thus was appalled to read of the dire future that lies ahead for one of my favourite teas, Darjeeling. This not only relates to climate change – interestingly enough an article in yesterday’s local newspaper warned white wine drinkers that the prolonged period of high temperatures as well as smoke damage from fires in the Western Cape is bound to affect both the quality and availability of white wine in the future – and political uncertainties in the Darjeeling Hills of India, but the decreasing numbers of people who are prepared to work as pluckers. According to the author Jeff Koehler, access to better education and the influence of television mean many more young people today harbour higher aspirations that their (mostly) illiterate forebears.
Perhaps one of the reasons why Darjeeling tea is considered the ‘crown jewel’ or Champagne’ of Indian tea is because so little of it is produced in comparison with other teas. The other is that it is considered by many tea lovers as being ‘so pure’ that it requires no additives in the form of either milk or sugar.
I had come across references to Darjeeling tea in M.M. Kaye’s novels about India and in several other fiction and non-fiction books I have read over the years, so was intrigued when I bought my first box of Twinings Darjeeling tea bags at a supermarket while we were still living in Mmabatho. My first taste of it convinced me it is a tea that deserves to be served from a silver tea pot – although I did not possess one at the time.
To me loose-leaf tea has a much better flavour than bagged tea and so I was delighted when a friend brought me a large box of Liptons loose-leaf Darjeeling tea from her trip to India: such luxury! I have never seen it for sale in that form in this country and only ever find the Twinings on my infrequent trips to Cape Town. So, while Darjeeling might be a rarity in the world of tea production – and thus highly prized – it is regarded highly as a precious commodity in my tea cupboard too.