In my teapot this morning, a portion of Mount-Kenya Golden-Leaves is opening up in the water. This is the first premium tea I’ve found in Kenya, and it has just arrived. I love its notes of honey, wood, wax and liquorice. They are warming, and celebrate the end of winter in their own way. They make you want to stay indoors a little longer, warm and cosy. They make you want to breathe in their aromas, cupping the bowl in both hands.
On the Delmas Bari plantation, where I was a few days ago, some plots were being watered as the ground was so dry. On this Darjeeling slope, which faces Sikkim, it hasn’t rained since October. In other areas, there had been a little rain in the previous days. This difference in climate on plantations barely a few kilometres apart is very specific to Darjeeling. Even on the same plantation there can be considerable variations in weather. Luckily, as we can see in this photo, the tender green buds are starting to grow. On this plot, there will be just one or two days longer to wait before the harvest can start in earnest.
In India, people sometimes welcome you by placing a silk scarf around your neck and blessing you. At DelmasBari, I was so saddened to see how dry the soil was that, in front of my hosts, I took the scarf that had just been given to me, and I blessed in my turn. I blessed one of the tea plants on the plantation, in the name of all the others, and I prayed for rain to come.
In Darjeeling, where I am at the moment, there wasn’t a drop of rain in January or February. This means most plantations haven’t started to harvest yet. Only the ones with plots at low altitudes, who irrigate their plants, have been able to produce a few batches. But here, the first teas are never the best. In Darjeeling, when you’re looking for quality, you can never be in a hurry.