The Champagne of Teas and the Cha Süma
Darjeeling, the land famous for its teas is every tea lover’s paradise with all the amazing varieties available to try. One can sit all day long sipping these freshly brewed teas in one of the tea lounges watching the beautiful valleys around.
During our 4-day stay in Darjeeling we made it a point to visit the tea lounges when the time permitted and try the famous Darjeeling tea (also called as “Champagne of teas”). We visited Nathmull’s Sunset Lounge and the Golden Tips Tea Lounge; both of these are located at the Mall in Chowrasta. From the outside both the places look like a regular tea store but they have a very cozy sitting area on the inside with great views of the town.
We visited the Nathmull’s with the sole purpose of trying their white teas, which is served in the champagne glasses. The choices available in the place are pretty limited with the basic options on black, white, green and oolong teas. White teas are considered to have higher antioxidants compared to the green tea, hence perfect choice for a healthy skin 😉 (Just what every girl needs). However, we were quite astonished when we checked on the price of the white teas. If you intend to buy the premium white teas at Nathmull’s it would cost around Rs.21000 per kg!! Pretty expensive isn’t it?
The Golden Tips Lounge is less pricey than the Nathmull’s and has extensive menu of about 6 pages of choices on tea. The manager at the store gave us a vivid description on the tea varieties and encouraged us to try various samples. The tea samples are served in cute little teacups and as you taste the fresh tea blends you would just want to exclaim “Waah Darjeeling!!” ;).
Apart from the Darjeeling Tea, we also tried the Tibetan Tea (also known as cha süma or po cha), a mixture of black tea, salt, yak butter and quarter part of yak milk. People in the high altitudes consume it as a main beverage along with the Tsampa (snack). It is perfect drink on a cold rainy day however; we would suggest you to consume small quantity of the tea, as the salty taste gets little strong with every sip you take. A loaf of fresh Tibetan fried bread also goes well with the Po Cha for breakfast. These are available at a restaurant called Kunga, at the Gandhi Road, Darjeeling.
Kunga is a traditional Tibetan restaurant where we tried some amazing food like Momos, Thukpa (noodle soup), Thenthuk (flat noodle soup), Phing (glass noodles) and veg curry rice. It is a small restaurant with an extensive menu and the best thing is the woman who runs the place freshly prepares every meal on order. You can also try the wonton soup, spring rolls and saphalays at this place.
The Keventer’s is another place, which is a favorite among the tourists for its traditional English breakfast and our own personal favorite: hot chocolate. It has an open balcony in the first floor where you can enjoy the valley view and note that couple of scenes of the famous Bollywood movie “Barfi” was shot in the same balcony.
For some of the delicious muffins, cream rolls and mouth-watering cookies we would suggest you to head to Glenery’s café at the Mall Road; a British style café serving light snacks and tea all day. It also has a restaurant in the first floor that serves Indian, Continental and Chinese cuisine and a pub in the basement called “The Buzz”. The Buzz is probably one among the few places that stay open till 11pm and is a great place to hangout after a hectic day of sight-seeing.
The Mall Road also has two pure vegetarian places serving great Indian and Chinese food: Hasty Tasty and Frank Ross Café. At Hasty Tasty we relished on yummy Masala Dosas and north Indian Thali. It is a self-service place always bustling with customers with quick delivery on orders.
Please note that most of the restaurants and cafes in Darjeeling take their last order by 8pm and will be shut by late 8.30pm.
Although the locals in Darjeeling are fluent in English, incase if a person does not understand your need for veg food, just tell them “ma śākāhārī hum̐” in Nepali.