By Shubhra Krishan
Every mountain lover has a tea memory. Even non tea-drinkers like me have slurped sweet milky kulhad chai in little roadside sheds, watching the rain refresh the trees. So it was with pleasure that I greeted the news—The good folk at Goodricke Group Ltd. have created a lovely, classy version of the mountain tea-shack. Pictures of the lounge came in along with the press invite, and it was like at first sight!
Driving on the narrow road that curves along the historic Darjeeling Himalayan Toy Train route, Goodricke Teapot floats into view rather unexpectedly. You can’t miss the big portly kettle perched atop a slab, metres away from a tiny station, adorably named “Tung.”
The pot compels you to stop. Close by, the Toy Train whistles past, the perfect music to complement the scenic beauty of the spot.
After a quick check-in at the Kurseong Tourist Lodge, we arrived at Goodricke Teapot.
The facade is so pretty it invites you to get clicked. A little fountain mimicking tea being brewed in a pot, lush plants against terracotta walls—you get the picture!
You enter a spacious room lined with posters. Each one gives you a little glimpse into the fascinating world of tea, through quotes, facts, pictures and illustrations.
A tea counter stacked with beautifully packaged tea stands in a corner. First Flush, Muscatel, Oolong, Orange Pekoe…you name it, they have it. Pick, pay and go. During the two days I spent here, I saw dozens of passers-by stop over and buy armloads of tea.
Long tables laden with several varieties of tea awaited us at the lounge. We spent a delicious hour here, learning to draw the full flavour of tea inside the mouth by vigorously slurping it instead of the delicate sips we usually take.
I, a tea newbie, especially enjoyed discovering fresh new flavours, which ranged from fruity to spicy to earthy and many accents in between! The tasting session was conducted by Krishan Katyal, Chairman & MD – J Thomas. More specifically, he is a Professional Tea Taster and Auctioneer.
What an erudite, articulate man and how obviously in love with tea! He is someone who can talk for hours about tea with charm and authority, and you find yourself wanting to listen to him for hours, too—a man who suits his job to the, er, tea! If you aren’t familiar with J Thomas (I wasn’t), here’s what they do: They are the largest and oldest existing tea auctioneers in the world, handling about 200 million kgs of tea annually.
Crash course in tea-tasting done, we ambled toward the lounge. The wood-panelled corridor that leads to the deck is picture-perfect, quite literally. Aim your lens, and you will get either a sunlit frame, a fog-cloaked one, or a mix of both, depending on what the weather is doing at that moment.
The deck itself may not be huge in terms of metres square. But those views! Sprawling vistas of mountain and valley filled with nothing but sweet tea-scented breeze…your breath becomes misty, your ears pick up birdsong, and your heart fills up with joy. To sip tea where it is grown and brewed is perhaps the closest thing to bliss!
Take a seat inside the tea lounge, and an array of delicious treats beckon. Goodricke have the good fortune of having Mrs. Neena Pradhan in their family. Tall, elegant and ever-smiling, she is something of a legend in this region for her hospitality. Her creativity and good taste are in full evidence at the lounge.
If you love baked goodies, you are in for a treat: Quiches, cakes, croissants, brownies, cheesecakes, flans….made fresh and served warm! Mrs. Pradhan’s desserts are phenomenal, and washed down with the best quality tea, they are unforgettable! We got to enjoy a bunch of tea-licious cocktails, too:
Don’t forget that Kurseong can get really cold, so this comfort food feels even more comforting in the cosy lounge.
So if you love India’s quaint little hill towns, head to Kurseong. If you’re in Kurseong, stop by at Goodricke Teapot.
- The nearest airport, Bagdogra, has easy and frequent connections from most major metro cities. From here, you take a cab to Kurseong. It’s about 60 kilometres away, but because you’re in the hills, the trip takes about two hours.
- Bagdogra is a no-photography airport, so keep your phone camera tucked inside your pocket.
- Bagdogra city itself is quite dusty and grimy, so don’t expect to be blown away by the scenery the moment you land. But some 15 minutes down the road, tea gardens start to appear.
- The canteen at Bagdogra airport serves yummy snacks. On your way back, arrive a little early and enjoy hot dosas, pakoras and cool fresh lime soda or chai. This is something of a local secret—take our word for it, you’ll love it!
- In the winter months, airport shops sell Nalen gur, a specialty in these parts. It comes in a tube, and lasts for just 90 days. Makes a great gift for your friends back home!
Goodricke Teapot, Margaret’s Deck (Margaret’s Hope Tea Centre, P.O. Tung, Kurseong, Darjeeling, West Bengal 734334; +91-97340-22440, goodricke.com)
Featured video : Xplorential
Also read : Tasting The Rain In Gangtok!