Tea is the most favorite poison for any self-respecting Bengali. Well, I may be an exception with coffee being my poison, but I can take the liberty. But so is a trip to Darjeeling. And once someone is on the way to Darjeeling from NJP or Bagdogra (rather a plain land), one small sloppy town named Kurseong comes in between. And then comes the Margaret’s Deck- the old fashioned royal hanging tea lounge by Goodricke tea Company. Of course, we had a halt there during our North Bengal trip there, and this post talks on the experience.
The tea stories
Like every bong, I am super opinionated and always looking for stories. So, when I say tea, how can I not bore you with the tea stories? Almost every food item has got a fable behind it and tea is not an exception. It’s said that Gautam Buddha was meditating. And like a normal human being, after a long meditation session, he was feeling sleepy. Being the devotee that he was, he tore his both eyelids and threw them to the ground. And two trees grew up from them. Magically, the leaves from them had the power of keeping someone awake, or at least less sleepy. Okay, I understand that this is a story, but the story of famous Chinese ruler Shen Nung is probably documented.
In 2737 BCE, Chinese emperor Shen Nung made a rule that water has to be boiled before drinking. And someday some tea leaf fell into his water while boiling. And boiled tea was born.
The first tea shop was established in England in 1657. But during the opium war in 1833, the British had a problem in tea import from China in India. And thus, they thought of harvesting tea in India. In 1823, Robert Bruce first found and documented tea plant in Assam. And in 1837, East India company started organized tea plantation. In 1839, Assam company was formed with 3 London company and 1 Kolkata company. But prince Dwarakanath Tagore formed another joint stock company called the Bengal tea association. And this company gradually was merged with Assam tea company.
In 1840, the British brought around 300 Chinese tea workers from China to work here. But the middlemen screwed up the whole thing and it didn’t click. After Assam tea company, sergeant dr Campbell started tea plantation in Darjeeling in 1841.
Well coming back to Margarets Deck. Let’s just say, this place is royal. It’s a hanging restaurant with a partial AC section and a beautiful open verandah. There is a car parking space attached and not a problem. Once you enter the place, on your right, there is a well-managed counter selling the different tea varieties. And for someone hell-bent on the tea-shopping activity, this is definitely a good place. The history of Darjeeling tea is put there for everyone to get enlightened. Once traveling, someplace with a clean restroom always gets some brownie points from me and Margarets Deck was no exception.
Though the interior is nicely made with the old world furnishing kept in mind, I’d seriously recommend sitting outside if you’re not too AC-savvy. The feeling, when the fog comes and covers you momentarily, is a heavenly feeling. Sadly this time, we didn’t get to sit outside as it was full and had to manage inside. Let me assure you, the inside is not that bad, in fact, it’s pretty good. Tea’s on the mind and hence, the elaborate tea menu is hung there for everyone to see and the food menu is served to the tables. The menu card is shaped as LPD added to the old-world charm at The Margarets Deck.
Honestly, I am an aam janta who loves the milk+ sugar+ cardamom+ ginger tea and not the connoisseur of finer tea varieties. But my wife loves good tea and like any well-trained husband, I go with her suggestion whenever she’s around. We ordered for a large pot of the white Tea and another of Orange Pekoe. Some snacks were also ordered, but naturally, at Margarets Deck, tea was of the prime focus.
But what is white and orange pekoe
White tea is a variety of tea, which is very minimally processed. It’s processed before the tea leaves open fully and are covered with the fine white hairs- thus lending the name. They’re then handpicked and dried- but not for as long as the green of black tea. The result is a super smooth aromatic tea variety.
Orange Pekoe, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing to do with Orange (or even the flavor). It’s a variety of black tea. Pekoe is actually pronounced ‘pek-ho’ and is derived from a word for a special kind of Chinese tea, meaning white downy hair referring to the down-like hairs on the tea leaves that are the youngest and smallest on the plant. But what about the “Orange” stuff?
The Dutch royal family was of the House of Orange. In the year 1600, the company brought teas to Europe and the best of the black teas was reserved for the royal family. When it was introduced to the public, it became known as the ‘orange’ pekoe, associating it with royalty. So, please do not expect any orange flavor in this variety and thank me from saving you from the lost hope. The white tea was supposed to be enjoyed without milk and the orange pekoe- with milk.
The server will tell you the exact time for brewing and will even take care that you go by it. The lady, who was serving us, was prompt and efficient enough to come back at the right time and pour the tea for us. Definitely a good service, I must say.
The snacks part
I believe in the philosophy “When confused, ask for help” and applied the same at Margarets Deck. With the help of the server, English scones were ordered along with some chicken sausage rolls. There were kids in our group and some Walnut cake was the call of the hour, along with some Chicken Mushroom Quiche. The food items were good, but I personally felt that the portion sizes could’ve been better. As Bengalis, we are a price-sensitive community and I can’t really help it. For example, the chicken sausage roll was a great dish – basically mini patties with chicken sausage stuffing. But the size- errr okay-ish.
Strangely, the quiche was damn good and so was the walnut cake. In Margaret’s deck, they took the sausage thing seriously and multiple varieties were on offer. We went for the Chicken smoked sausage. It was good, but then how can a smoked sausage go wrong? the scones were unlike the ones that we get in Kolkata and looked more like a sliced cake. The garnishing of the walnut cake was brilliant and it tasted good also.
My overall experience
Overall, the experience was damn good. Regarding the pricing, while the price point of tea was pretty decent, food pricing seemed a bit high, considering the small portion size. I was told that Margarets Deck serves a great lunch as well, but I’ll be able to talk on it once I go back. Till then, do let me know about your experiences at Margarets Deck in the comments section.
Bon apetit !!!
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