I just came back from a short memorable trip to Makaibari Tea Estates in Darjeeling, India. As some of you may know, this is a family connection for me. Rajah Banerjee, the 4th generation owner is my brother-in-law. His wife is my sister and I have managed Makaibari's interests in the U.S. for the past 20 years. My sister and I also went to boarding school in Darjeeling so landing in Bagdogra, the small but very busy military airport which serves the entire area, brought back a few memories.
Right out of Bagdogra, we stopped to purchase some of the best mangoes that are at their peak during the renowned 2nd flush season. Along with them we also picked up a large bunch of Lychees. I discovered that this year, both fruits were of excellent quality which is not always the case. We took a road to Makaibari that I had not traveled before - picturesque with views of the Balasun river, across bridges and passing Terai flat-land tea gardens (pictured above). It was distressing to pass Panighatta Tea Estate along the way, abandoned, overgrown with weeds. This is not that unusual in the tea business. Soon, the temperature changed from the hot, humid air of the plains to the cooler hill climate as we drove up perilous, winding mountain roads and climbed 4000 feet in 20 minutes. In an hour, we were in magical Makaibari.