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Tea Leaves

Trouble brews for India's 'royal' tea

Pandemic fallout hits Darjeeling and millions of devotees around the world

India's Darjeeling district is reeling from the impact of a labor crunch caused by the COVID-19 outbreak that has wrecked this year's harvest of its eponymous tea. For Darjeeling, which lies in the misty, emerald green foothills of the Himalayas, this is an economic and social disaster. But it is also a blow to tea lovers like me.

I have been hooked on Darjeeling tea since I was child, when a relative from the region used to visit our home in New Delhi. The lady's visits were much-awaited, not least because she always arrived bearing exotic Darjeeling tea packs as gifts. My mother would fry pakoras (spicy pastries) and we would gather in the garden to partake of this ambrosial amber brew with its earthy aromas. Each sip tasted heavenly.

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