The picturesque vistas of Ging Tea Estate are a visual treat to say the least. Even the drive along the narrow road, that leads to the estate from Lebong, is an experience in itself. As with several tea estates across Assam, West Bengal and Darjeeling, Ging has also actively taken to tea tourism.
Ging was established in 1864, the same year as my dear alma mater, St. Paul’s School, was shifted from Calcutta to Darjeeling. The garden manufactures orthodox tea, a trend common to all Darjeeling tea estates. Orthodox is the traditional style of making tea that involves withering, rolling, fermenting and drying. It is then followed by sorting and packaging. Across most of the plains, the commonly manufactured kind is CTC or ‘crush, tear and curl’.
As you settle into a Darjeeling estate, you cannot help but wonder how the English and the Scots braved harsh conditions, hostile weather and often violent inhabitants to plant the camellia sinesis. Over 150 years on, these plantations are tiny ecosystems in themselves, continuing to provide livelihood to thousands.
The Darjeeling estates, for the most part, witnessed a prolonged period of calm. However, beginning sometime in the 1960s, communist waves began to envelope West Bengal. And with it, labour agitations in the estates became all too common. Some even escalated to the point where executives were lynched and in the decades since, a complete sense of calm was never restored. Not too long after, beginning in the 1980s, the Gorkha agitations often brought work to a standstill. But despite the odds, the estates have soldiered on and have been able to withstand the winds of change.
Ging’s present management has done wonders with the heritage property. Perched on a ridge, this bungalow offers views that would perhaps evoke a sense of romance even in the most stoic of souls. The beauty simply is ethereal. Personally, I only had the opportunity to visit the bungalow for a relaxed lunch. But all along, I imagined it would be perfection if only I could experience sitting by a bonfire on the lawn, under a moonlit night.
Darjeeling, for me, is home. I spent the most memorable twelve years of my life at St. Paul’s and even after graduating from there in 2005, I seem to never tire of driving up the winding roads. These same roads, long ago, would make me go sick when returning from holidays because it meant a long period of separation from my parents. However, by the time I was in my final year there, the same sickening feeling underwent a reversal. It would then strike on the descent to the plains because in just a few months, it would mean long periods of separation from the people I knew best.
But those 12 years aside, and the ensuing 17 that I have been going back for, each visit to the hills is a most looked forward to event. What heightens the sense of novelty is stumbling upon new finds. Ging is one of them. Only next time around, I will make sure I spend a night, maybe two, in this picture perfect locale.