In a recent interview, a journalist asked me why I drink tea.
I drink tea to relax, to find a moment’s peace, to create some space for myself. I drink tea to stay calm, to give myself a break, to do myself good. I drink tea in the same way that others practice yoga, to keep myself feeling good, to replenish. And I also drink tea for the pleasure of making it and the pleasure of serving it to others. I drink tea for the happiness that comes from sharing it.
Some time in the next two weeks I should receive the first of a large number of samples from Darjeeling. During the first few days I get just a handful, but as the month goes by, the harvesting intensifies. In March and April, I sometimes taste more than 100 teas in a single day.
This picture is of a plucker who has not yet slung her basket on her back. Like me, she is impatient for the season to start.
This morning, I had the pleasure of meeting Abhishek Bagaria, the owner of Phuguri Tea Estate, Orange Valley Tea Estate and Millikthong Tea Estate. He hopes to be able to go ahead with the harvesting on his various plantations in the next couple of weeks.
After a cold, dry winter, the weather conditions are now favourable. We must now just hope that the political tensions which have reignited over the thorny issue of autonomy for the Darjeeling region will not lead to strikes and road blocks.
There are still hurdles to overcome before we can enjoy these Darjeeling teas – but they will be worth the effort!
There are different grades of rooibos, but not much difference between them. However, the “long cut” offers the most interesting experience in terms of fine flavours and powerful aromas. It is the most harmonious. It is the only grade I have bought for years.
An amusing detail: for rooibos tastings in South Africa, the cups are lit from beneath in order to judge the clarity of the liquor.
In a few weeks’ time, the spring tea harvest (first flush) will begin in Darjeeling. The weather is a decisive factor in determining the timing of the harvest, and Darjeeling fans will be as happy as I am to learn that it has finally just rained there, after a long period of dryness.
Anil Jha, the planter at Sungma, has just informed me that on the night of 16 February, between 18 and 32 millimetres of rain fell in the region.