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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”.

These pearls are made using small leaves from white tea bushes in Fuding, a mountainous region with a good deal of seacoast on Fujian’s border with Zhejiang province. The tightly rolled balls are repeatedly scented with fresh jasmine blossoms which creates the appealing fragrance. Pale in colour with a delicate flavour and pronounced jasmine aroma. The leaves will unfurl when they are infused and can be re-infused many times.  The attractive nature of this tea is best appreciated in a tall glass or shallow white drinking bowl that shows off the leaves at their best.

The coastal area means that the mountains are often covered in a dense sea fog. Legend tells of a mighty dragon with eyes like pearls and a sweet scent to fool its prey. As the sea fog climbed the hillsides, so would the dragon, rising from the waters and hiding in the brume. The villagers would try repeatedly to kill the dragon, but it would always rise again, like a phoenix from the ashes.

After many years, the villagers realised that every time the dragon came ashore, the mountains became rich with minerals from the sea water, allowing them to grow the finest tea bushes.   And so they would leave animal meat on the areas of the hillside they wanted to grow, tempting the dragon to those fields. The region prospered and the people thanked the gods for the dragon they once feared.

This Darjeeling Tea produced in the gardens of Thurbo in Nepal is highly regarded and has a rare and delicate fragrance. The hybrid of Chinese and Assam features create a tea which is bright and full of flavour, and also beautifully rounded and sweet. The surrounding orange orchards and orchid farms all add to the exotic charm of this tea.

The unique name of the tea relates back to an historic event in the area.

Between 1814 – 16, the Anglo-Nepalese War raged. It was also known as the Gurkha War. Fought between the Kingdom of Nepal and the British East India Company as a result of border disputes and ambitious expansionism on both sides, this was to herald a significant change in both countries.

The British attacked, while the Nepali defended, under the guidance of Captain Balbhadra Kunwar. His army of 600 contained men, women and children, while the British army of 3500 contained only men. The Nepali took refuge at a strategic fort hill but after a month, the British realised they could not win with their military efforts and so tried to cut off the water supply to thirst the Nepali out.

Still the Nepali were determined to defend their position. They walked out of the fort in single file, drank from the river and went back inside. The British looked on in amazement.

After several days, Captain Balbhadra emerged with drawn Kukri’s (utility knives) in his hands and 70 survivors. He roared at the British “You could never have won the battle but now I myself, voluntarily abandon this fort. There is nothing left inside but the corpses of women and children.” He and the remaining troops then escaped into the hills.

 

After this war, Britain began recruiting Gurkhas into the British-India army and they still recruit into the British army to this day.

The soldier-poet, John Ship, wrote about the Gurkhas:

“I never saw more steadinesses

Or bravery exhibited in my life.

Run they would not and of death

They seemed to have no fear

Though their comrades were falling

Thick around them, as bold

For we were so near to know

That every shot of ours told.”

The place in which the British built their camps was called “Tombu”, which means “tent”. Over the years, this became known as Thurbo and is the very place this tea grows, and why it is named Darjeeling Thurbo.

The exotic gardens are said to now be blessed by nature itself, as a reward to the Gurkhas for their immense bravery and determination to their land.

Warmer and smooth sea, all very quiet aboard ship – very few attended Divine Service – Governor of Malta very ill.

Called at Plymouth where a good many more passengers left and then to Woolwich. Arrived safely at 6am on February 14th.

Arrived Newcastle on Monday, the 17th Feb and on Tuesday and Wednesday attended the office and cleared off some of the work that had accumulated in my absence. On Wednesday night I did not feel well so went to bed and called in the doctor – I had a high temperature and lay in bed for a month suffering from an attack of “Flu” and Congestion of the Lungs – am thankful to say I am now well and about again.

In conclusion I must say the trip was a wonderful experience – very interesting and highly educational but very strenuous for a man of my age. We must have travelled 24 thousand miles in 3 and a half months in various temperatures and altitudes by boat, rail, motor car, rickshaw, camel and elephant. We were treated with the greatest kindness by all we met and we hope to meet many of them again when they are home on leave.

During the past nine years I have visited many countries – Spain, North and West Africa, Italy, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, Canary Islands, West Indies, Venezuela, Switzerland, through the Panama Canal to Panama, Canada, and the United States – have seen the best and poorest parts of some of their principal cities and have stayed in their best hotels but have always had a feeling of thankfulness that England was my home on landing in England after each trip. It is in my opinion the best, cleanest and most wonderful country in the world.

 

Sam Smith

 

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.

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