lush tea shrubs
under barren trees;
what’s the tea know?
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As Bordeaux or Tokaj are to wine, Darjeeling is to tea, producing a quality beverage considered by many to be the best in the world. However, this isn’t merely the story of how this region of northern Bengal (or, alternatively, Gorkhaland) came to produce a unique kind of tea that would be sought-after around the world. It’s also a story of empire and how Britain’s insatiable demand for tea drove major developments in geopolitics. It’s yet further the story of recent troubled times of Darjeeling tea, from labor shortages to environmental degradation, and what tea estates have done to adapt – from management / organization changes to organic production techniques.
Lessons in the history and geography of tea may seem niche and uninteresting, but the story of tea is actually quite fascinating, involving Opium Wars, the Black Hole of Calcutta, and an industry shakeup resulting from India’s independence.
I found this book compelling, and thought it did a good job of zooming in and out between local and global (and past to present) to maintain the interest of a diverse readership. Whether the book is exploring attempts to transplant tea shrubs and expertise from China or the changing customer base for Darjeeling tea, it’s an engaging and thought-provoking story. If you’re interested in tea, world history, or agribusiness, you’ll likely find something in this book to hold your attention.
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drink the wisdom -- you'll find it more in the heat than in the liquid subtle - like the flavor of tea in drinking it you'll discover: there is no tea, but the tea -- a tea-less tea the life in you the life in me melted into a mound of unity
The cone-hatted ladies converge on the plantation, a spreading swarm, picking the fresh green leaves, tossing them over the shoulder into a backpacked wicker basket, leaving behind a flattop trimmed tea shrub. The mid-day rains drive away the pickers for a short time, but they'll be back, squeezing between dripping tea trees, their skirts saturated with the cold morning rain that will steam off into a muggy afternoon. tea pickers head back to the fields after mid-day rains
What kind of shrub shifts the well-laid tracks of global trade routes?
What kind of shrub doesn’t know whether to be of nature or man?
Its even green sings the song of nature, stretching in an unbroken landscape to the forest’s pristine chaos-
-except when in need of picking. Then its bright, almost glowing, fresh tips are the shade of a newly trimmed outfield, standing out against nature’s dark olive.
But, its flat-topped, close-cropped ‘do tells a tale that’s all man, as do the fine parts that section off the shrubs into labyrinthine patterns for the pickers to navigate.
And what kind of shrub, each day, draws hordes of humans with wicker baskets on their backs and conical hats that are to the Vietnamese Paddy Hat what a novelty sombrero is to a real sombrero.
What kind of shrub…
Flat-topped tea shrubs
round over the contours
of ancient, eroded mountains
worn into low-lying lumps.
The army green plants
sport tight crew cuts–
the recently plucked.
The lime green plants
are slightly shaggy–
pickers will soon visit.
Tips will be tossed
over the shoulder
into conic, woven baskets.
Leaves to be dried in hot boxes
fired by crackling wood.
Steeped in boiling water.
Fusing into you.