Why you need to head to India for a drink – I

In a four-part series, we will take you on a journey through this vast country, one drink at a time.   Chai (Tea) In aroma and in history, Darjeeling chai is complex.

Cutting Chai Darjeeling Cutting Chai in the streets of Darjeeling, India.

Photo Courtesy: Raghavan Prabhu CC-BY-SA-3.0
Once a forgotten hill station, Darjeeling, nestled at the foot of the majestic Himalayas, was acquired by the Raj (British who once ruled India) from a local king. It was converted to a sanatorium-town to revive Colonials, drained by the Indian summer.

Woman picking tea leaves in a tea plantation, Darjeeling, India. View of the Himalayas from Darjeeling

Photo Courtesy: Qihu CC-BY-SA-3.0
Along came A. Campbell, a Scottish surgeon, stationed in India, who brought with him tea-seeds from China. Soon, Darjeeling, in West Bengal, held what the Brits needed most – the ‘Champagne of teas’.

Darjeeling Tea Leaf Darjeeling Tea Leaf

Photo Courtesy: Partha Sarathi Sahana CC-BY-SA-3.0
Today, as you drive through the winding hills, you come across lush patches of green, pruned and plucked by women in colorful attire with cane baskets on their backs, filled with leaves.

Woman picking tea leaves in a tea plantation, Munnar, Kerala state. Women picking tea leaves in a tea plantation, Darjeeling, India.

Apart from these iconic images, Darjeeling comes dotted with serene Buddhist monasteries, spotted miles away by their prayer flags billowing in the wind. At the other extreme is Chowk Bazaar, a market crammed with tiny shops, where you can find everything from hand-spun textiles, to intricately carved silverware, and more. To spot the endangered snow leopard or a cuddly red panda, head to the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park.

A view of Kunchenjunga peak at sunrise from Darjeeling, India. Kunchenjunga Peak at Sunrise – Darjeeling, India.

Photo Courtesy: Ankit Agarwal CC-BY-SA-3.0
The adventurous can train at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, and perhaps even touch Sandakphu, the highest peak in West Bengal. If that’s not your thing, then simply visit the fascinating museum within the institute. Here you’ll come across memorabilia from various Everest expeditions. And when you’re in need of an energy boost, a cup of tea is at hand! Stay tuned! Next, we travel North, to the state of Punjab to get a taste of that mouthwatering Mango Lassi.

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About Saffron Dreams

We love India. We want you to experience the best it has to offer.

There are just so many wonderful things to see in India that we always run out of breath and space while listing them. Thousand-year-old temples, tropical forests, buzzing cities, delicious food, luxurious hotels – this is the beginning! Luckily, we know India inside out. We know how to make sure that your trips are full of magical moments while being comfortable at the same time. We'd appreciate the chance to plan the details for your trip..... Read More