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 Kanchenjunga overhangs Darjeeling

You have to admit that Darjeeling’s urbanization was very quick and not very well under control. As a result, noise, traffic jams, a lack of water and a waste management not very much enviable. But a few meters further, nature takes up and you come across breathtaking landscapes. Here I’m looking towards the West at these mountain folds forming what we call the Himalayan foothills. They’re not considered to be high mountains yet, but if you look well between the clouds, if you’re observant, you might notice this magnificent peak: let me introduce you, Ladies and Gentlemen, the third highest peak in the world, the Kanchenjunga!

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

Darjeeling or « the stormy country »

“Darjeeling” both refers to the tea plantations stretching out on thousands of hectares and the city you can see on this picture and where from I’m writing to you today. It’s a large town of hundreds of thousands people, or, in other words, a village on an Indian scale. It’s located at an altitude of 2100 meters and here you can see it under a rather mild sky if you consider that in Tibetan “Darje Ling” means “the stormy country”. The city is on a slope and when you walk around it, you actually spend more time climbing the narrow stairs snaking in and out the houses than crossing leaning streets. Tea is all there is, to such an extent that people don’t know where to build houses anymore, yet necessary to provide accommodation for an increasing population.

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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