I learnt all about Darjeeling tea from a waiter at a café in Kolkata. I had ordered a cup of the Champagne of Teas, as this tea is known the world over. The bearer, a portly, garrulous man, brought it without milk or sugar to go with it, though. When I asked why, he looked aghast, as if I had uttered a blasphemy.

“Madam, nobody adds milk or sugar to Darjeeling,” he said, visibly irritated at my request.

Concluding that I had little knowledge about Darjeeling tea, he began a lengthy monologue, “Darjeeling tea is very special, because there is never enough of it. It is like wine, madam. The character of the tea comes from a multitude of factors, including the chemistry of soil, rain and sunshine pattern, tea bush lineage and even the speed of winds that sweep the mountains. Darjeeling tea cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world. “The magic of Darjeeling lies in the complexity of flavours, madam. You will be ruining this magic if you add milk or sugar. And do you know what Darjeeling tea with milk is called?”

I swallowed hard and asked him gingerly, “What?”

“Chicken soup,” he said.

An ode to Darjeeling Tea

Savour it, sense it

Drink in the feeling,

Not just anytime,

But pure Darjeeling

— Anonymous