The center of heaven. The core of the earth. The heart of the world is fenced around with snow. Arrivals of the first flush in Darjeeling, floods the heart and mind with lucid, impressionistic visions. It is bliss perceived through a swirling haze, shades of dramatically deep reds, pinks and purples at dawn and fluctuating reflections of an assertive Himalayan aloofness. But more than anything else, it is a reminder that the life of the spirit flowers most variously in the rare mountain air where the notion of swift-paced time is quietly overthrown amongst the muscatel tea bushes. Tea, more than Everest or Kanchenjunga, has given Darjeeling a distinct identity. This is quite in the order of things. While the Himalayas are certainly not the exclusive preserve of this most celebrated of Indian hill stations, its delicately-flavored, fresh young tea cannot be grown anywhere else. Darjeeling tea has won and kept a great paramount reputation as nutty and Muscat-like and among the black teas it is acknowledged as the golden mean against which all lesser brews are graded.

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