The name Darjeeling, a city in the Indian state of West Bengal, at the foot of the Himalayas, is derived from the combination of two Tibetan words, Dorje (thunderbolt) and ling(land), translated as “land of the thunderbolt”. On our arrival, Darjeeling reveals an interesting mixture of cultures, the consequence of the confluence of people from both Tibet and Nepal.
While walking around the city, I notice the evident importance of the tea industry, which shares the spotlight with the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a means of transport declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1999 and which today still operates with one of the few remaining steam engines in India.
On the tea plantations, located more than 2,000 metres above sea level, the inhabitants produce Darjeeling tea, one of the most highly-appreciated varieties in the world. The hills are home to estates of well-pruned and perfectly aligned bushes. The pickers collect the tea leaves one by one, by hand and in silence. This same scene is repeated over and over again throughout the year and, depending on the time of harvesting, the resulting tea varies in terms of darkness, astringency and sweetness.
The presence of tea crops in this region dates back to the mid-19th century, coinciding with the development promoted by the British presence in the area. The native growers developed special hybrids of black tea and fermentation techniques, resulting in many of the blends which are now regarded as the finest in the world.
After observing this finely crafted process, I take the train to the city, where visitors can choose between the tea houses to be found everywhere. The varieties and tastes of the infusions are so numerous and different that choosing one is a laborious and