Thursday, June 11, 2015

Darjeeling: A History of the World's Greatest Tea by Jeff Koehler

I'm always on the look out for new tea reads so I was excited when I saw a Twitter friend tweet about this book. I was even more excited when the author replied and offered to send me a copy. Thanks again Jeff! It arrived just in time to accompany me on both of my very long flights from World Tea Expo. Darjeeling is a region that has fascinated me since the very beginning of my tea journey. Years later I'm still enraptured and digging deeper. Although this book initially struck me as somewhat similar to The Darjeeling Distinction by Sarah Besky, their slightly different angles make them both worth the read.

Jeff offers an in depth exploration of Darjeeling and the Indian tea industry in general. From the East India Company to modern political issues, he covers the entire storied history of the Himalayan hill station. I particularly enjoyed the insight into the Kolkata auctions and the ownership changes of each estate through the years. The discussion on organic and biodynamic farming was also very insightful. Darjeeling's socioeconomic issues will have a big impact on the tea industry in the coming years so I think it's important that tea consumers be as informed as possible.

Jeff's passion for tea, Darjeeling and its people add warmth to a story that might otherwise be a bit more doom and gloom. Overall the book was very readable and well organized. The section of glossy color photographs in the middle were a nice surprise. There are maps and snippets from the past as well as some interesting modern day shots. You've got to love the mutton chops on ol' Robert Fortune!

You can find out more about this book here.