This is not the first time on this blog that I have expressed my love for the books based on Himalayas and hopefully this won’t be the last one. Jeff Koehler’s book- Darjeeling: The Colourful and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest tea, is a smashing book, the one you must not miss if you are fan of tea, Darjeeling, history and Himalayas (like you can’t find a better sweet point for someone like me )
Darjeeling tea has already won admiration from around the world. It is the favorite of the prestigious tea rooms from New York to London and the finest of the teas are auctioned like a rare and priced possession. Darjeeling is to tea what Bordeaux is for wine or what Scotland is for Whiskey.
However the history of tea plantation in Darjeeling is not the very straight forward. China was the principal tea grower and the British faced huge trade deficient with China because they were importing lot of tea without trading anything back to China. To tackle this problem, British East India company started exporting Opium to China. Opium became a huge social problem in China and when the Emperor decided to ban Opium in China, it triggered two Opium Wars between them. After facing the defeat, China surrendered the Island of Hong Kong where British established their colony and trade routes to dominate Opium distribution in the mainland. However this didn’t discourage Chinese Government to stop Opium trade and the British knew they needed alternatives for buying tea from China and they decided to flirt with the idea of growing tea in India.
Then followed the smuggling of tea plants, tea growers and seeds from different parts of China to India. Different locations were selected for the tea growing in India. Assam and Southern Hills flourished and so did in the Eastern Himalayan region of Darjeeling.
Located between Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal, Darjeeling was historically not part of India or in expansion British India. Since its location was in between the Independent kingdoms of Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet, the British requested the possession of Darjeeling from the King of Sikkim in exchange of it’s protection from Nepal and China. Though it was agreed but the transfer not immediately done- and again only after the aggressive movement of the British, they got the possession of the hill town.
Jeff takes us to these historical moments but does not isolates the modern anecdotes. There are meetings with different tea gardens, traders and enthusiasts that narrates the story of Darjeeling’s charm. The book is the journey you will love to indulge. I rated it 5 out of 5 stars on goodreads.