Good-bye Darjeeling, Hello Assam – Lady Baker's Tea
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Good-bye Darjeeling, Hello Assam

Good-bye Darjeeling but not before a quick visit to Margaret's Hope Estate on the way to Bogdogra Airport. From their roadside welcome, a very small museum, we could see again the hills beyond covered with our favourite plant, camellia sinensis. We were invited to accompany the manager on a 20 minute ride down into the estate factory and offices, but alas, this was not officially on our tour itinerary and we could not take the chance of missing our flight back to Kolkata. The main reason for my disappointment was that the tea from this estate is the only Darjeeling that I have on my humble menu at this time.

[caption id="attachment_2339" align="aligncenter" width="856"]view from the roadside welcome house view from the roadside welcome house[/caption]

Situated in north Kurseong region at an elevation ranging from 3116 -6,003 feet, this 150-year-old famous tea estate was once called Bara Ringtong. At the beginning of the 20th century, the then-manager of Ringtong, Mr Bagdon, brought his young daughter Margaret with him on the long sea voyage from England to the Darjeeling hills. Margaret fell in love with the peace and beauty of the tea gardens and longed to return again one day. Alas, young Margaret died before her dream could be realized, but in her honor the name of the tea garden was changed to 'Margaret's Hope'.

We were graciously welcomed and immediately a young hostess put on the kettle and got out cups and saucers. We sat outside as if to have a picnic and were served delicious hot estate tea and cookies in the misty yard. Unfortunately, our driver was waiting, so we had to move on. But at least I had a chance to look out on the tea fields where my Darjeeling was plucked and processed.

[caption id="attachment_2354" align="aligncenter" width="464"] TGFOP - the Darjeeling I carry is a graded as a Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe which means that the buds which are abundant are of lighter colour than the leaves.[/caption]

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When we did arrive at the airport, the unexpected happened. We were told our party would have to wait in a small room out of sight. There were several armed guards about the small airport and we felt a bit alarmed. It was explained to us that a political dignitary was on site and had to be ushered out with much protection and thus we had to be hidden out of view. I tried, not entirely successfully I must admit, not to think of the thriller, mystery movies I have viewed where unpleasant things happen at airports!! I am happy to report that this time nothing unpleasant happened! We arrived in Kolkata early evening. It was hotter and more humid than even a week earlier. Traffic was heavier and our evening out at an exquisite reception hosted by the Toklai Tea Research Institute was postponed by an hour due to the impossible traffic. It was on this trip from the airport back to the hotel in Kolkata that I caught a glimpse of what I imagine is a more common means of getting around in the region: a man driving a scooter, with a woman in a sari on the back sitting side-saddle, with a tiny baby in her arms and a toddler on her knee. They were traveling right along side of all the cars; no helmets, and looking as calm as could be...wish I had a picture of that! The complete lack of road rules impressed me the entire time I was in India!

We had only the night in Kolkata with an early start on Tuesday back to the airport to take us to Dibrugarh, Assam. We left Dr. Laskar in Darjeeling where his research work continued. In Dibrugarh, we were greeted by 2 new drivers and new guides from the Toklai Tea Research Institute. A tour of estates in the largest tea producing area in the world was about to begin! I will share more about this next part of my tea adventures in next week's blog post! In the meantime I want to hear from you! Leave me a comment below this post and tell me what you would most enjoy experiencing on a tea tasting adventure. Thanks for reading, friends!

For those of you who left comments on my last blog post, I have drawn a winner. Abby, congratulations! You have just won yourself some tea from my India tea adventures! Expect an email from us very soon!

[caption id="attachment_2351" align="aligncenter" width="600"]a small area for so much production! a small area for so much tea production![/caption]
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