After our leisurely walk inside the Himalayan Zoological Park and HMI we drove to Kanchan View Tea Estate, and you can quite easily guess the rationale behind its nomenclature. Yes, if the weather is not too unpleasant, mighty Kanchenjunga acts as its backdrop. This is the same reason for which tourists are brought here, so that they can satisfy their eyes and of course their lens. I got down the slopes of the tea garden and torn out few leaves to smell the magic of Darjeeling tea. You have every right to laugh at the stupidity of this botany illiterate … fresh tea leaves don’t carry the aroma. The sun overhead wasn’t so tolerant with us, so we concluded our stroll in tea garden with tea.
There were actually some dozen of tea-vendors selling tea parcels of the same estate but good thing is that none of them nagged us for a purchase. We posed before the lush green tea plantations on the curves of hills but there was a clear absence of satisfaction in my mind. What’s new in it? I have seen so many tea gardens before in Jalpaiguri district too. What I wanted was to witness the tea processing in a factory in its rawest form. I talked to the driver and he told that tea-factory visit doesn’t come in regular sightseeing contract… Ah it was that trivial! I agreed for the extra bucks and he happily took us to a tea factory.
En route we passed the Rope-way (known as, Rangeet Valley Passenger Cable Car) at Singamari. The rope-way service was kept closed that day in the memory of a fatal accident it had faced on October 2003, where four passengers had died. We missed the golden opportunity to get astounding view of the valley below, see the carpet of lively tea gardens on the mountain slopes, meandering river Ramman and Little Rangeet, waterfalls, endless greeneries and the majestic Eastern Himalayan range of snow capped giants. If you are traveling Darjelling in October and want to ride the cable car then confirm that particular date from your tourist cab driver or guide to avoid disappointment like us.
We also passed by Tenzing and Gombu Rocks which are used for rock climbing training by HMI. Tenzing Rock is a colossal natural rock where you can try your amateurish climbing. Tenzing Norgay, the pioneer climber to the summit of Mt Everest used to practice climbing in that rock from where it has derived its name! If you’re ignoring Gombu Rock (just opposite to Tenzing Rock) then probably you haven't heard of Gombu (Nawang Gombu), the nephew of Tenzing, the first brave heart to climb the Everest twice! Our car also passed by the prestigious St Paul’s School where the Bollywood movie ‘Main Hoon Na’ was shot and while staring at the school from the road you may develop a melancholy “Why didn’t I have my schooling here?”… Nah I (being a Xaverian ) didn’t have any such feeling though.
Our next destination was the tea factory. Here I won’t mention the name of this tea-factory anywhere in my blog because I’ll be putting some photos of their interior processing units which weren’t officially allowed, for which I had to tip to the staff. I know it’s bit unethical but I had found their prohibition on photography itself so unreasonable. So, I’ll indulge in the white mischief, safeguarding the reputation of the company with anonymity. A staff acted as our guide and explained all the details starting from tea-plucking to packaging the processed tea for export. Taking us to various units/chambers he narrated the processes of withering, disruption, fermentation, fixation, rolling, drying etc which I can hardly remember now (yes, I was more busy in clicking than listening to useful things!).
Still I can remember he had given a comparative description of the processing of three major varieties of tea- green, black and white tea. Like, green tea is processed within a couple of days of harvesting and requires minimum fermentation. The black tea on the other hand requires complete fermentation etc etc… Then we tasted these three types of tea and purchased few of their tea-pack souvenirs. Honestly I loved the green tea most while tasting. The late lunch followed soon and in my next blog post I’ll tell how we spent the rest of the day in Darjeelng local sightseeing.