In the Himalayas, people give their prayers to the wind

On Sunday, I climbed up to the temple near Chowrasta, in the centre of Darjeeling. From here, you can look out across the city. The big problem with this walk is trying to avoid the hordes of monkeys intent on stripping you of everything you have. They bare their sharp teeth if you have the tiniest piece of food in your pockets. Once at the temple, I slowly make my way around it, and sit on one of the stone benches to observe the faithful. I cannot resist raising my eyes to contemplate the prayer flags, these scraps of fabric printed with prayers or mantras. They are given to the wind in order that it may fulfil them.

I find this poetic ritual fascinating and soothing. I watch these multicoloured scraps dancing gently in the wind, rising from the earth to the sky and taking our prayers to the gods.

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

This Sunday at 2.45pm on France 5: “Tea for all”!

There are not many documentaries on tea, so when one comes up on television we shouldn’t miss it. As part of its Global Drinks series, France 5 is showing a documentary called “Thé pour tous” (Tea for all), this Sunday at 2.45pm. The report lasts 52 minutes, which is quite exceptional. The director Stefano Tealdi travelled through various countries including Japan, Taiwan, the UK and India, and also stopped in Paris. We met a year ago and I agreed to him accompanying me into the tea mountains. So in February, we met in Kolkata. We then took the Darjeeling route in the company of Sandro DeFrino, his camera man, and Angelo Galeano, his sound recordist.

It is not easy to travel with a TV crew in places you love, on the other side of the world. It’s a bit like being with a bull in a china shop. But with Stefano, Angelo and Sandro it was real pleasure; all of them treated everyone we met with great respect, and they showed a deep understanding of the nuances of local identities. It’s a rare thing. I was very pleased to have met them. I think we started to develop a friendship and I’m looking forward to seeing their film.

In this photo, taken in Kolkata, Stefano Tealdi, with his back to the camera, is talking to Krishan Katyal, director of the tea auctioneers J Thomas & Co. Krisham is one of the leading experts in India, and I’m sure I’ll be telling you more about him another time.

Ps: for the people who, like me, do not have the television, you can clic here to view the programme until October 24th

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

Gopal Somani: an experienced grower in Darjeeling

Tomorrow I am going to visit my friend Gopal Somani. Gopal is one of the most important people in Darjeeling. He is one of the two or three most experienced growers, and his teas win the most prestigious awards. He supervises the plantations of Puttabong and North Tukvar, a vast area with altitudes that vary by more than 1 000 meters and which, in season, produces truly exceptional teas. With his high standards and attention to detail, this expert has taught and trained many Darjeeling growers over the past two decades. I myself have learnt a huge amount from him.

Tomorrow we are going to tour the North Tukvar plantation together, and taste his recent teas. Then I am invited to lunch at his bungalow. And if I mistakenly use my fork to eat instead of my right hand alone, as is customary in India, he will make his habitual remark: “Why are you using your false hand to eat when the gods gave you a real one!”

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

Chowrasta, the heart of Darjeeling

Darjeeling’s main square, its centre, its heart, is called Chowrasta. You have to come here on Sundays to realize how popular it is. People come from all the surrounding mountains around, they travel for several hours to spend part of their afternoon there, sitting on one of the numerous benches, sipping the famous spicy chai tea. It’s easy for an experienced eye to distinguish by their costume Sikkimese from Nepalese women, Tibetans from Bhutanese and Indian tourists, often from Kolkata, who are cold here and put a scarf around their head, with a knot on top of it, just like an Easter egg. As for the kids, people hoist them on one of the numerous horses for a nice ride on the Mall.

It wasn’t very warm this morning on Chowrasta, at a time when shops start opening, the time of the first onlookers, hands in their pockets. At a time when you have the whole space to play when you have such a nice yellow ball like this!

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

In Darjeeling, momos are one of my favourite recipes

When I’m in Darjeeling, momos are one of my favourite recipes. For those who aren’t familiar with Himalayan typical food, it’s a steamed pastry filled with vegetables (“veg momos”) or minced chicken (“chicken momos”). As you can see, momos actually look quite similar to the Chinese Dim Sum.

Even before arriving in Darjeeling, when I’m on my way, I stop at the Tourist Lodge in Kurseong to eat a full plate of them. In Darjeeling, two famous Tibetan restaurants you could mistakenly take for greasy spoons, the Dekeva’s and the Kunga, have it as their specialty. A delight. Here are two recipes if you are interested, proportions change of course whether you serve them as an entry or as a main dish:
- Vegetarian momos (
- Meat momos (Elle à table)

It goes without saying that you’re free adapting these recipes according to your tastes, replacing one meat by another, choosing different vegetables, overdo it with ginger. And adding chili to the tomato sauce to rouse the momo and make you, just by itself, imagine you here in Darjeeling!

Which tea to drink with it, you’ll ask me. I suggest a salted butter tea, ideally yacht butter, that you’ll have previously let go rancid just like Tibetans do.

Posted in Country : India, Places I like in Darjeeling 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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