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And Down into the Gardens

We are told it is Saturday, May 30th! We gained a day flying 18 hours to Kolkata. It is amazing how that messes things up with our inner clocks! I start to think about market day in Charlottetown. It would be tomorrow if I were there. Or would it be yesterday? That is precisely how my brain was functioning at this point. We had been in India 3 days and it seemed like always.

Once again, after a Canadian style breakfast of hard boiled eggs, toast, juice and tea (an Indian breakfast was also on the buffet table) we were told we were 2 hours from Glenburn Estate. This one was a bit different in that it was also a tourist destination where one could enjoy a suite for a long stay in two beautiful terraced homes with verandahs looking out onto the mountains which we never did see because of the mist at this time of year. We must go back in October for the best views and even Mt Everest on a good day! Thinking 'tourist destination' prepared me for a comfy easy ride. Not so! After a two hour winding uphill trek in 2 vehicles, we switched to two jeeps to descend into the estate grounds. It was on this 9 km slope of the worst potholes I have ever experienced that I decided that I would never complain about Island roads again! But at the end of the descent, as our view opened before us, I can honestly say that the only word that came to mind was "paradise."

[caption id="attachment_2274" align="aligncenter" width="600"]In the clouds In the clouds[/caption]

Glenburn is a heavenly little plantation retreat that lies on a hillock above the banks of the River Rungeet, high in the Himalayas, overlooked by the mighty Kanchenjunga mountain range. We could see hills and vales and miles of tea bushes. We were welcomed by two British innkeepers and the manager of Glenburn. We had arrived!

After greeting us with gamochas, we settled on the verandah with a glass of water to talk with the manager. We were escorted to the Tea Factory where we saw the leaf brought in from the fields, weighed, and then taken through the processes of withering, rolling, fermenting (better known as oxidizing), drying and sorting. It is here where I got to sit with the ladies and sort tea in hollow bamboo baskets. I noticed one of the workers had bright turquoise fingernail polish. Her hands were delicate and beautiful and when I took her hand in mine and pointed to her nails, she started to giggle! I thought "girls will be girls" wherever we go!

[caption id="attachment_2301" align="aligncenter" width="856"]empty baskets to be filled with tea leaves empty baskets to be filled with tea leaves[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2303" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Louise, president of TAC sorts with the lovely tea ladies Louise, president of TAC sorts with the lovely tea ladies[/caption]

As much as I did not want to get back in that jeep, we had another estate to visit before dusk. I will be back, I vowed, to stay a few days, maybe a few weeks. Plucking two leaves and a bud in paradise sounds pretty good to me!

[caption id="attachment_2309" align="aligncenter" width="856"]2 leaves and a bud 2 leaves and a bud[/caption]

Castleton Tea Estate in the Kurseong Valley is operated like Thurbo Estate by Goodricke Company. The manager, Vikas was so happy to meet the person whose name was on the certificate on his office wall. Louise Roberge's signature was on the document that awarded this estate with a high quality tea designation at a tea competition in 2013! It was really special to see the pride that accompanies such a distinguished award.

[caption id="attachment_2306" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Castleton Tea Estate (Goodricke)_4 Here is the tea master holding the trophy![/caption]

Shabnam Weber, seated on the left is the writer and teacher of the Tea Sommelier Course offered by the Tea Association of Canada and also a experienced taster at such competitions. I loved hearing her reactions during our cupping sessions as she slurped many samples.

Castleton is home of mostly China leaf and orthodox production. The facility was spotless. The manager demonstrated a method of testing quality by tossing tea very gently from a white paper into the air to see if any broken bits parted from the main pile when landed. In this case, the high quality tea did not separate. It was not a broken leaf grade.

Typically it was dark by the time we got back to the Sinclair Hotel. We were planning a day off next (Sunday), which proved to be more on than off. No time to twiddle thumbs when in India! This sign was on a wall at one of the estates; appropriate, wouldn't you agree? Stay tuned for next week's blog post! I am really enjoying sharing my India tea adventure experiences with you.

A note to workers in the tea factory


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