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Darjeeling: The Colorful History and…

Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World's…

by Jeff Koehler

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546218,071 (3.5)1



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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Meh. Tea is a major drink of choice for me and I enjoy reading up on it. I was intrigued by this book cover that says Darjeeling is the world's greatest tea. I would need more information to see what supports this premise.
Author Koehler takes us through the origins of Darjeeling and tea, from the discovery of tea, how tea is harvested, the issues facing the industry, the history and the role tea has played in it and more. Some of it is quite fascinating: from the role tea played in the Opium Wars to how tea is used in trade between India and Russia, Iran, etc. This was probably the most interesting parts of the book for me as I never quite realized *how* important a commodity tea has been.
But otherwise, the book is an incredible mishmash. Bouncing between the history to how tea is harvested to how it can be prepared, etc. I found the book was very uneven. I'm genuinely shocked at the number of reviews that found the author's writing "engaging". It's clear the author is very passionate about the topic, but that did not translate well to the page.
And as other reviewers note, the book is written from a Western POV. The author says "Darjeeling's tea story is romantic." on page 7 of my hardcover copy. Romantic...for whom? The book flap itself calls tea/the tea industry in India came to symbolize British imperial rule. Along with the role it played in the Opium Wars, I just couldn't agree. Sometimes the author goes off and waxes poetic about his subject and it can get a bit wearing. 
Still, there were definitely parts of the book that were interesting and I did learn more. But I am surprised the book is rated so highly. I got it as a bargain book but recommend the library or skipping it instead. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
a history of Darjeeling tea and its production. Well written but strongly needs to include maps, photos and other graphics (there are none). ( )
  howzzit | Aug 17, 2016 |
At times a very interesting account of India and tea but at times it is very slow and a little boring. Maybe because I am really just interested in the history or social parts of the book but when he would go on about the weigh of tea and the prices for it, it was not easy to hold my interest. When Koehler was writing about the history of Darjeeling and how tea came to be grown in India that was very interesting. This book is about more than just tea in India; it is about how colonialism has shaped India. From the way that tea to grown to how it is drunk, the British are still affecting India. But it is also about how the Indians are retaking their history, their country, and its exports. It is interesting to see how tea is seen socially as women's work but that does come with some troubles. The changes that India has seen over the course of its history is truly breath-taking and this book does cover some of that. But this is about how tea and India have worked together.

I give this book a Three out of Five stars. ( )
  lrainey | May 10, 2016 |
I chose Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea because as we all know, I love learning about all things Indian. Also, they drink this tea on Downton Abbey and I was curious about how an Indian tea came to be popular in England – if the characters on that show drink it, it must be good tea!

The history of the tea is fascinating. It arrived in India in a dramatic fashion – being stolen from China. Today the tea is grown in tea gardens, which are really huge plantations. The relationship of the tea garden workers to the owners is a totally different arrangement from anything I’ve ever heard of before. This book also touches on the state of Darjeeling tea today. The regulation process needs some work – there is a lot of fake Darjeeling tea out there.

Koehler goes into a lot of detail about the physical properties of the tea and how it’s grown and harvested. This part didn’t interest me nearly as much as the history aspect of the book but that’s probably because I’m not much of a tea drinker myself. Incidentally, I tried some Darjeeling tea for the first time after finishing this book and I thought it was really good. I don’t care much for regular black tea so I think there must truly be something special about it.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book. The narrator had a mellow voice with just a touch of an Indian accent that made it a pleasure to listen too. The only thing I didn’t like was that he used a full-on Indian accent when reading a quote from an Indian person. It seemed odd to do that for a non-fiction book.

I really enjoyed learning about a tiny subset of Indian culture that I knew nothing about before. I think tea drinkers of all sorts will enjoy it as well. ( )
  mcelhra | Aug 13, 2015 |
An extremely thorough coverage of all things tea, with a strong concentration on Darjeeling tea. What it is, where it comes from, how it is prepared, why it is different than other tea. A history of tea, India and the British rule of India. The effect of terroir on tea, the status of the tea industry and the tea-growing regions of today. What the future may hold for the Darjeeling area, and why. You will come away with a new found appreciation of your morning tea! ( )
  1Randal | Mar 20, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This is such a richly digressive book. Mystical experiences, language and literature . . . , history, local atmosphere by the potful and even, at the end, recipes for local delicacies such as Himalayan steamed dumplings, thukpa (a Darjeeling noodle dish) and – surreally – cucumber sandwiches.
added by inge87 | editThe Guardian, Nicholas Lezard (May 17, 2016)
Koehler is clearly drawn to the romance of the mountainous location, the colonial vestiges that still remain, and the passion of those individuals past and present who've dedicated their lives to growing tea in the region.
added by krishh | editSCMP, Kit Gillet (May 6, 2015)
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Presents the history of the tea trade in the Darjeeling district of India, from its origin in the smuggling of tea plants from China, to the cultivation of the tea by an Indian rajah for 150 years, to the modern threat of climate change.

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