These tea leaves come from a garden very close to Darjeeling town which has the only original small-leaved Chinese variety of bushes planted by the British over 100 years ago. This means relatively low yields but exceptional flavour.
The infused tea has a light amber colour, with a little more strength and less greenness than many First Flush teas. It has some dryness on the palate and good muscatel flavour, with a subtle sweetness in the aftertaste.
The place we now know as Darjeeling, translated from Tibetan literally means “the land of the thunderbolt”. It was also once known as the “Queen of the Hills.”
It is said there was a mighty god, who controlled nature. He coaxed the flowers to grow and allowed the rain to fall. But he was fickle and he often punished villages according to his mood. The place we now know as Darjeeling was then a humble village, which often faced the wrath of this angry god. He would bring his clouds and rain and dull weather with him and throw thunderbolts in frustration. One day a young local girl travelled to the foot of the mountains that lay to the east and prayed to this god. She prayed that he would leave their town alone to thrive of its own accord. She thought him a cruel god and accused him of abusing the power he held, when he should have been using it to help his people.
The god heard her prayers and on seeing her, was struck by her beauty. Her words cut deep and he spent the night alone in the mountains, thinking over his mistakes. The next day, when the villagers awoke to a dull orange sun emerging, painting the sky with brilliant strokes of magenta, gold, terracotta and fuchsia. The snow-capped Everest, Kabru, Kanchenjunga, Jannu and other peaks slowly became visible. The village folk gasped at the magnificent sight. As the fog lifted, the village gradually came alive. Flowers opened to the sun, grass grew green and fresh and the tea bushes flourished.
The god looked on the village and claimed it to be the “Queen of the Hills”.
Left ship on tug off Suez. Motor cars awaited us. A drive of 80 miles through Suez and the desert to Cairo. Coffee at Shepheards and then to the museum where the treasures of King Tutankhamen are stored. The usual visit to the Bazaars where the Dragomen keep a sharp eye on what tourists spend. They no doubt call for their commission later on. Then to Shepheards for lunch after which we motored to the Pyramids where camels, horses and two-seater conveyances awaited us to take us over the rough roads. We did the ride on a camel. The largest Pyramid is 451 feet high. They seemed to have had a mania for building them as you see Pyramids dotted here and there on the landscape. The first impression one gets is of disappointment – the stones are not so large as one had imagined and are very rough and irregular. Different to the wonderful Taj, Jain temples at Mount Abu, and such places. The Sphinx was also disappointing although excavations have been carried out and show it to better advantage. The Sphinx Temple is worth seeing for its huge blocks of granite it contains. One immense block formed part of two sides of the wall and one lady of the party asked the guides how they managed to bend the block to that shape1 A slight flicker of her eyelid but the guide was at a loss for an answer. Boarded the ship at Port Said at 9:30pm and sailed at 11pm. A very rough passage to Malta which kept many in their cabins – called at Malta for about 2 hours, went ashore and revived my memories of Valetta of 9 years ago. Many have decided to leave the ship at Marseilles rather than facet he Bay of Biscay. The Governor of Malta was brought aboard ill and on sailing a salute of 17 guns was given by the garrison. Arrived Marseilles and visited the interior of Notre Dame Cathedral, which we had not been able to do on the outward journey. A great number of passengers left by train, it saves the best part of a week, but we had booked from the Thames and back and kept to the itinerary, and were lucky to have a very smooth passage home. The ship was delayed 6 hours at Marseilles owing to Dock Workers’ strike and we left at noon – cool breeze. Called at Gibraltar – a few hours ashore, visiting the shopping centre, a motor run up the Rock, a walk through St Catherine’s Galleries and back to the ship. Later we stopped off at Tangiers for a short time – not allowed to land, then sailed for Plymouth.
Landed at Aden. Visited the Tanks, built about 2500 years ago to conserve water – when there is any to conserve. When we saw them they had been empty since 1928. Drove past the Salt Works through the Arab village and to the shopping centre, then back to the ship. The ship rolls a good bit but it is very fine and hot. Nothing much doing and time hangs.
A largely attended Memorial service for the late King George. Held in the 2nd Class dining hall. There must have been four hundred people present. A most impressive ceremony. At 4:50pm all ex-servicemen assembled on deck wearing their medals and at 5pm (or 1 o’clock English time) everybody stood to attention, for a two-minutes’ silence. The ceremony ended with the sounding of the Last Post.
Packed and luggage all away by nine o’clock. Left for ship s.s “Carthage”, at 11:30am and in our cabin “Lala”, our bearer, performs a touching little ceremony when he presents Mac and I with a red rose each and places a rope of beautiful flowers round our necks, the custom of Indian in welcoming or bidding goodbye to their friends. Edward Rose – Beriff and Lala left a quarter of an hour before the ship sailed. In the opinion of Englishmen in Bombay the finest sight in the world is to view the city from the stern of a homeward bound ship. On our return from Elephanta Island I drew the attention of our guide to a fresh bite on my wrist – he said “You have had your arm on the side of the boat” – these men (4) sleep and feed on the boat and it swarms with bugs – “that is a bug bite”.
On the Saturday morning my left eye felt queer and before night it was practically closed – my arm also was very much swollen – Mac brought the ship’s doctor to me and the following day I spent in bed with pink lint fomentations on my eye. Eye and arm much better on Monday – able to get on deck and enjoy the breeze.
Visited the Gymkhana Club with Ed. Rose, whilst Mac and Sergeant Milburn went for a swim at Breach Kandy. Edward Rose and Lishman of the Sun Assurance Co. dine with us tonight at the Taj Mahal Hotel.