Where there’s tea, there’s hope. – Arthur Wing Pinero
Will you travel for tea? After spending a few wonderful days in Kurseong amidst the lush tea gardens, relishing the delicious food and various tea concoctions at Margaret’s Deck, I know that I definitely will travel for tea again. Let me tell you a little more about my journey to discovering the other side of tea.
I am a tea person, like a lot of us Indians. According to numerous surveys, tea is the second most consumed beverage in India, next to water. Which makes sense because tea is like an old habit for most of the people I know. Starting from the standard bed tea to a fancy flavored iced tea, and everything in between, tea finds its way in all our lives in some way or the other.
However, for something that’s such a regular thing in life, I was shocked to realized that there is so little I know about it. There really is a lot to Tea than I knew, and this trip to Margaret’s Hope served as a much-needed lesson about the Liquid Gold most of us can’t live without – Tea.
I was invited to a media FAM trip organized by the Goodricke Group, to witness the goodness of Margaret’s Hope tea lounge in Kurseong, West Bengal. I have stayed for a few years in Assam and Arunanchal, have traveled to a lot of cities and travel destinations nearby, but had somehow missed visiting the Darjeeling district. So, in the spirit of being a true traveler, I jumped at the opportunity. My journey started from Dehradun, took me to Delhi and finally to the Bagdogra Airport. We were a group of Travel Bloggers and Writers, and everyone was excited for the trip. From the airport, we were taken to Kurseong via taxis, and the drive was beyond beautiful.
Kurseong is often overshadowed by its much more popular neighbor Darjeeling, but when I reached there I was taken aback by the undeniable charm of this quaint hilly town. From the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway to stunning colonial buildings, from historic churches to beautiful monasteries, Kurseong is a wonderful travel destination in itself. Add to it, the rolling tea gardens extending till the horizon, and I am sure you will fall in instant love with it as I did.
Margret’s Deck is a tea lounge with a huge deck overlooking the vast expanse of the Margaret Hope tea gardens. Margaret’s Deck is an initiative of the Goodricke Tea Pot, and holds an interesting history behind the name. The tea garden itself dates back to the early 1860s, and Mr. Cruickshank was the estate manager at the times. Margaret was his daughter who was absolutely in love with the luxurious green tea gardens.
Margaret’s love affair with these tea gardens however, was interrupted by a short visit that she had to make to England. She was all set to return to the gardens that held her heart, but before she could make it back, she unexpectedly passed away due to a sudden illness.
Her father christened the garden Margaret Hope after her demise and as I stood at the wooden deck of Margaret’s Deck, looking at those gardens gave me goosebumps. The power of love will do that to you, right? And the view is spell-bounding.
And Margaret’s Deck only adds to the charm of the tea garden below. It is divided in two sections, the lobby where the Tea Tasting session was held, and the Restaurant with the deck where delicious food was served to us.
Tea Tasting session was an eye opener for me. Mr. Krishan Katyal, Chairman & Managing Director of J.Thomas & Co. Private Ltd (the oldest and largest tea auction firm in the world) was present to take us through the evening. He is a professional Te Taster and Auctioneer – a career that I had no idea existed, let alone sounded a super fun one. His passion for tea was almost tangible, filling up the lobby with excitement about the various cups full of different colored liquid filled in them.
Arranged neatly on tables, were cups full of pale yellow, dark brown and shimmering golden tea. All these different colored tea in various cups, we were told, were made using the leaves from the same garden. The difference – the stage of the leaf. Interesting, isn’t it?
The right way to go about Tea Tasting is to slurp it loudly, spraying the liquid on all parts of the mouth so that the various taste buds register the taste, the undertones and the distinct flavor. It is a pretty technical process and I tasted a lot of tea myself, trying my hand at recognizing the flavor. What fun!
Tea in Flushes:
Mr. Katyal explained to us the amusing concept of Flushes. Let me try to explain it to you, in case you (like me until this trip) do not know about it. The tea is harvested during various phases of its life, it is often referred to as flush. Here is what is means:
- First Flush: This is from March start and lasts up to mid April. The tea leaves harvested during the first flush give a very light color of tea, and is fragrant with undertones of flowers.
- Second Flush: This starts in mid May and goes on till about the end of June, and gives the world-famous Muscatel tea. I liked it very much.
- Monsoon Flush: This is only in September, and tea is golden-yellow in color.
- Autumn Flush: From mid October till November, the leaves harvested give another distinct flavor of tea.
But remember, for tea tasting, you have to leave out the things that you might consider the best friends of regular tea – milk, lemon, honey for example, because they mask the true flavor of the tea. These cups are made by brewing water at the same temperature for the exact same time. Nothing else is added to it.
After the Tea Tasting session, the group moved on to the restaurant were we were greeted by a yummy fragrance. My tummy rumbled and I was given a glass of a delicious cocktail of tea, lemon and rum – absolutely splendid! The food at Margaret’s Deck is great – in terms of taste as well as presentation. From green tea cookies to grilled fish with mashed potatoes, I loves every meal here.
I loved my trip to Margaret’s Deck in Kurseong. Not only did I have a great time exploring Kurseong with a great bunch of people, but it also showed me the lesser known side of Tea. I recommend you add Margaret’s Deck as a must-visit destination to your list, and if your travelling to Darjeeling, stopping for a delicious platter of food and a pot of tea at Margaret’s Deck is almost mandatory. Go, explore the world of Tea, let your favorite beverage surprise you.
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