05 December, 2020

Lord Of The Leaf

Teddy Young, Darjeeling's last English tea planter, knew his destiny was in tea leaves

Lord Of The Leaf
KOI hai?" booms the lonely English voice on the verandah, and as if by magic two silent Gurkhas appear, one to set up the wicker tea table, the other hovering discreetly behind with the tea tray. We are on the spur of a hill, 4,500ft up in the highlands of the eastern Himalayas, and about to taste the freshest, purest Darjeeling in the world. Beyond the rows of potted geraniums and wild orchids, and the lawn with its goldfish pond, grow the tea bushes, tightly packed on vast hillsides that dissolve into magnificent views of snowcapped mountains.

Without further ceremony the pale brew is poured into plain china cups, through a silver strainer and from a teapot in a bright, hand-knitted cosy. It looks as cheerfully reassuring as a matronly aunt in an old dressing gown—only its white handle, spout and lid are exposed. "Milk?" asks Teddy Young, jug poised over the cups; and for just that flicker of an instant, as one blue eye under a cocked eyebrow frames the query, you know you are being judged.

Like the split-second decision that could save you from falling...



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