Visiting the Balasun tea plantation

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Balasun plantation, in Darjeeling. The plantation got its name from the river Balasun, which runs below it. Anil Jha, who manages the Sungma Tea Estate, and who you can see beside me in this photo, also supervises the Risheehat Tea Estate and the Balasun Tea Estate. He is one of the most respected and most experienced growers in Darjeeling. There are only three or four others with his level of expertise – and authority. I admire him, and I’m also grateful to him, because he was the first person to teach me so much, here on these mountains. We first met 20 years ago, so he has seen me progress, professionally speaking.
Whenever we meet, we talk for hours, united by the same passion.

Posted in Country : India by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , , , , ,

Tea grower’s bungalow in Teesta Valley

This is the type of house I stay in when I’m in Darjeeling. It is a grower’s bungalow, and is typical of the region. There is one on each tea plantation, where the grower and his family live. I took this photo last week. When I woke, I sipped my early morning tea, served in bed as is the tradition, and waited for the sun’s rays to warm up the ground and flood the flower beds with light.

Posted in Country : India, Places I like in Darjeeling by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , , , ,

Darjeeling : tea trade is threatened

The situation in Darjeeling has improved considerably. The road blocks have been lifted, the shops have reopened and life is getting back to normal. But the tea trade is still affected, as the party campaigning for independence is threatening to prevent the movement of trucks carrying the tea in a few weeks’ time, in order to demonstrate its political clout and bring negotiations to a conclusion.

However, this does not stop me from enjoying a quiet moment tasting teas, as I am about to do here at the Teesta Valley Tea Estate factory.

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In Darjeeling, I have had to change my plans

Because of the heightened unrest in Darjeeling this year, I have had to alter my plans. The movement in favour of the region’s independence will decide today whether or not to block all the roads and shut down the shops again. So instead of visiting the Balasun plantation in the Kurseong region, I have decided to take a detour east. My friend Abhishek Dev, the grower at the Teesta Valley Tea Estate, came to collect me a short while ago from Bagdogra airport, and took me to his bungalow. Teesta Valley Tea Estate is in the extreme east of Darjeeling and from here, I can decide whether to go to Darjeeling city or not, depending on the turn of events tomorrow. At least, thanks to  Abhishek, I have the latest news from Darjeeling and on the forthcoming harvest. And this evening, I can also meet the growers from Gielle, Runglee Rungliot and maybe Namring. These four tea plantations, situated at quite a distance from Darjeeling city but, of course, within the prestigious “appellation”, are some of the most beautiful in the region. In this photo you can see the view I have from here, in the late afternoon, walking towards the Gielle Tea Estate.

Posted in Country : India by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , , , , , , ,

Calcutta : a place I really love

The City of Joy is also the city of tea. All the tea produced in Assam and Darjeeling is shipped from the port of Kolkata (also known as Calcutta), and the plantations in the north of India all have offices in the city. So I often come here, and go to tea tasting after tea tasting.

The city is unbelievably dilapidated. It is overpopulated, overcrowded, crumbling, stifling, humid and disgustingly dirty. It has a way of sucking the life out of you. Yet despite all this, I really love the place. I am happy in Kolkata.

Posted in Country : India by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , , , , , ,

The author

François-Xavier Delmas is a passionate globetrotter. He’s been touring the world’s tea plantations for more than 20 years in search of the finest teas. As the founder of Le Palais des Thés, he believes that travelling is all about discovering world cultures. From Darjeeling to Shizuoka, from Taiwan to the Golden Triangle, he invites you to follow his trips as well as share his experiences and emotions.

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