Darjeeling's tea bushes run across a mythical landscape steeped with the religious, the sacred, and the picturesque. Planted at high elevation in the heart of the Eastern Himalayas, in an area of Northern India bound by Nepal to the west, Bhutan to the east, and Sikkim to the north, the linear rows of brilliant green, waist-high shrubs that coat the steep slopes and valleys around this Victorian "hill town" produce only a fraction of the world's tea and less than 1 percent of India's total. Yet the tea from that limited crop, with its characteristic bright, amber-colored brew and muscatel flavors - delicate and flowery, hinting of apricots and peaches - is generally considered the best in the world.
This is the story of how Darjeeling tea began, was key to the largest tea industry on the globe under imperial British rule, and came to produce the highest-quality tea leaves anywhere in the world. It is a story rich in history, intrigue, and empire, full of adventurers and unlikely successes in culture, mythology and religions, ecology and terroir, all set with a backdrop of the looming Himalayas and drenching monsoons. The story is ripe with the imprint of the raj as well as the contemporary clout of "voodoo farmers" getting world-record prices for their fine teas - and all of it beginning with one of the most audacious acts of corporate smuggling in history. But it is also the story of how the industry spiraled into decline by the end of the 20th century and how this edenic spot in the high Himalayas seethes with union unrest and a violent independence struggle. It is also a front-line fight against the devastating effects of climate change and decades of harming farming practices, a fight that is being fought in some tea gardens - and, astonishingly, won - using radical methods.
Jeff Koehler has written a fascinating chronicle of India and its most sought-after tea.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©2015 Jeff Koehler (P)2015 Audible, Inc.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
This is a most interesting book. The author has done extensive research not only into how to grow, harvest, pack the tea but the proper way to brew and drink tea. Koehler is a natural story teller which makes the book a delight to read.
The area or region of Darjeeling sits in the upper right hand corner of India. The mountainous region is bordered by Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan and the area has been unchanged for the past 150 years. This area produces the most expensive tea in the world.
Koehler tells the tale of how the British, who have acquired a taste for tea, sent out Scottish botanist Robert Fortune on a dangerous, covert mission into mainland China to smuggle out the tools to launch a new tea growing area in British India. The story of Robert Fortune reads like a spy novel.
Fortune smuggled out hundreds of tea bushes along with eight Chinese tea experts to the former Mughal garden in Saharanpur along the Indian foothills of the Himalayas. The Chinese tea flourished in the mountains but did not do as well in the low lands. The area called Assam is the main area for the native Indian tea. By the end of the 19th century, Britain was importing less than half of its tea from China most now coming from India.
Koehler tells about the tea plantation, he says they are called tea gardens. The average tea garden is 553 acres and produces 220,000 pounds of tea. There are 87 tea gardens in Darjeeling. Tea bushes were taken to various areas of India but different soil and temperature produce different teas. Only those grown in Darjeeling can be called Darjeeling tea. The author states the tea gardens are facing many problems that will affect the future of the famous tea, soil erosion, loss of workers, failure to plant new plants and so on. After reading this book one feels almost like a tea expert. Fajer Al-Kaisi narrated the book.
Certainly not the worst narrator I have come across on Audible - but he managed to mispronounce a lot of especially names of people and places. I'm personally also not a huge fan of narrators who switch from their 'normal' voice to a sing-song whenever South Asians are speaking. While generally read ok, he also introduces some pauses at wrong places - maybe he didn't prepare enough before the recording, but there are definitely sentences that would have benefited from a re-take.
The story was very enjoyable and interesting, and I don't regret getting it, despite the not so perfect narrator.
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