"It's not much but it's ours"

Friday, March 21, 2008


My chum, Vanessa, amongst other things, buys tea for legendary US deli, Zingerman’s.

It was my announcement, when I was in Ann Arbor last October, that I was going to head up to Darjeeling towards the end of my trip in India, that prompted her to ask if she could join me to see the good stuff being harvested at source.

Who was I to disagree? Particularly when she agreed to turn her considerable talents to organising it.

Which is why, after a short flight and a frankly terrifying car journey we found ourselves pulling up outside the guest bungalow of The Goomtee Tea Estate some 40km South of Darjeeling.

One of the most highly respected tea estates in Darjeeling, Goomtee allows visitors to stay for short periods in their guest accommodation and to join their staff on tours of the plantation and the manufacturing facility.

Before heading up to Darjeeling, Vanessa had already organised for us to join Ashoka Gandotra, a renowned tea taster, for a session of slurping and spitting in Kolkata. Quite an amazing experience as he introduced us to a huge selection of teas, explaining their characteristics and guiding us through the often, confusing terminology employed to grade the good from the bad.

What better then than to help shake the dust from our feet on our arrival at Goomtee than a pot of the real stuff brewed from the leaves selected last Autumn? Lightly coloured with a gentle flavour.

Goomtee accommodates on a full board basis. The food is well known for being simple but delicious and with three square a day and precious little to do but sit in the charming guest quarters, read and admire the astonishing scenery, It is a perfect contrast to the craziness that is Kolkata.

With all meals being vegetarian, supper consisted of simple dishes of eggplant, cauliflower Singara (Bengali Samosa) and Momo, local Nepalese inspired dumplings and breakfasts of Idli (southern Indian rice and lentil cakes) with gently spiced sambar.

Vanessa, with impeccable timing had arranged for us to arrive the day that the garden was planning to begin the first harvest of the new season's first flush.

The first flush is not considered to give the best teas from Darjeeling. That comes in May and June with the second flush. But, the light, almost green, teas make a refreshing, pungent brew which has developed its own following

On our first day, we were introduced to the plantation manager, the imperious Mr Maharesh who announced to the waiting workers that the rain clouds looming overhead would mean no picking on that day. While they headed back to their respective homes, we were taken for a tour of the production facilities.

The next morning, thankfully, the weather improved immeasurably and we headed out to watch the first teas of the season being plucked. The picking is always done by women whose hands, being smaller, cause less damage to the plants. It is, as one would imagine, extraordinarily hard labour, but the workers here are relatively well paid and the garden owners provide housing, schools and health care which makes this an attractive proposition for people heading here in search of jobs from neighbouring Nepal.

That afternoon, we left Goomtee and headed into Darjeeling, some ninety minutes to the North. It is a harmless place to pass a couple of days, but, being full square on the hippie trail, the food options are pretty ropey and aimed primarily at serving neutered “Indian” dishes to French travellers with dreadlocks. In fact, some of the worst food experienced in my whole time in India.

Apart from one horribly early morning start to head to Tiger Hill where we watched The Sun rise over The Himalayas, we spent the majority of our time at Nathmull’s, easily the best tea store in the town. The owner Vijay and son, Girish gave us tastes of some of the best teas from Darjeeling all of which they buy direct from the gardens themselves. We tasted 2007 first flush, second flush, rainy season and Autumn teas from many estates. All different but all having their own distinctive qualities.

With two more days in Kolkata before heading back to the UK and then on to Africa, my short time at Goomtee will find itself very definitely in list of top experiences during the EAT MY GLOBE trip and that morning cuppa may never taste the same ever again.

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Anonymous Lex said...

ooo... idli and tea.. it rhymes hehe

Sunday, March 23, 2008 5:41:00 pm  
Blogger Madhav Sarda said...

Nathmulls are perhaps the oldest & most well known tea merchants from Darjeeling whose business operations are also still functioning actively from there till date. Nathmulls have been in the business of catering to tea connoisseurs of Darjeeling Tea, the world over since 1931.

Nathmulls of Darjeeling have been in the International mail order business ever since inception of tea trading, and have in the process developed a long list of thoroughly satisfied tea mail order clients, across the world. Our diversification from retailing to wholesaling tea and packaging was but a natural process after which we took to exporting the Finest Indian Teas in a wide range of attractive, indigenous handcrafted gift packaging, which is often tailor-made to the specific requirements of our clients in India and abroad.

At the export front Nathmulls range of packaged teas has been greeted with a lot of enthusiasm. Nathmulls of Darjeeling have started exporting teas to Japan, Canada, Greece, Maldives, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Nepal and UAE.

At Nathmulls we source our teas from the tea auctions, as well as, directly from the tea plantations. Experienced tea-tasters at Nathmulls Tea ensure that the highest standards are followed while selecting, buying and blending teas so that the consistency in tea-quality, that goes with the “NATHMULLS” name is maintained. And nothing can better than the combination of quality-tea, packaged in a range of fascinating handcrafted gift-packs of leather, velvet, cane, cotton and satin pouches, hand crafted rosewood, copper, paper machie, ceramic and metal boxes.

View Tea Cosy Gallery

The Nathmulls showroom, has been recently modernised and opened to welcome connoisseurs of this wonderful beverage from across the world. A larger space, designed and executed artistically and tastefully will probably make a visit to Nathmulls an even more pleasurable one.

This specialty and unique Tea Boutique located at the ground floor (main entrance) of the Rink Mall in the heart of the picturesque town of Darjeeling, is slated to be one of its kind in the region, possibly in the country. The Chairman, India Tea Board complimented Mr. Madhav Sarda, CEO of Nathmulls for the venture and described this Tea Boutique as the ideal module for the promotion of Darjeeling Teas across India and worldwide.

A huge range of fine Certified Organic and conventional estate teas from Darjeeling, Assam, Sikkim, Nilgiri etc. are on display and sale along with over 150 varieties of teas in innovative handcrafted gift packaging, under the Nathmulls brand, the widest and most exotic range from any Indian company.

Apart from this, various paraphernalia on tea such as books, tea pots & cups, kettles, tea boxes, tea spoons, variety of strainers & infusers, tea cosies, paintings on tea, etc. are on display and also available for sale.

The aesthetically designed showroom has a whole range of beautifully done graphics which trace and celebrate the history of tea since the inception of this wonderful beverage with a blend of modernity and style.

The very exclusive and India’s first ever tea boutique also has a sit-in tea service aptly named, Tea Cosy, where tea lovers can select and sip their favorite cuppa from a special Tea Menu which includes estate teas, specialty teas, flavored fruit teas as well as chilled teas and mocktails. The menu is to consist of over 100 such offerings. The service is to be launched soon.

There are several plans for the constant promotion of Darjeeling Teas by ways of events, meets, festivals, contests, visits and talks by eminent people and experts from the industry and trade at the showroom premises.

This latest venture of Nathmulls is slated to become a focal point for all connoisseurs & tourists visiting Darjeeling in the near future and for all times to come.

PH: +91 9332541424

Nathmulls Assam Teas
Nathmulls Autumn Flush
Nathmulls Darjeeling Green Teas
Nathmulls Darjeeling Teas
Nathmulls Darjeeling White Teas
Nathmulls First Flush 2006 Teas
Nathmulls First Flush 2007 Teas
Nathmulls First Flush 2008 Teas
Nathmulls Kangra Teas
Nathmulls Nilgiri Teas
Nathmulls Oolong Teas
Nathmulls Organic Teas
Nathmulls Second Flush 2006 Teas
Nathmulls Second Flush 2007 Teas
Nathmulls Second Flush 2008 Teas
Nathmulls Sikkim Teas

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Sunday, November 02, 2008 10:57:00 am  

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