Today I awoke with a cold and plans for a tea tasting. Talk about a bad combination! It was fine, though. Natalia and I slurped and spit our way through about 20 unsorted teas and six of Makaibari's premium teas. Amazing. The pinnacle was the last one--Imperial Silver Tips, the highest-priced tea in the world.
Afterward, I switched gears and went to the biofuel plant, where three cows (named Red, Black, and Angry) are housed and their waste is composted for methane cooking gas and slurry for composting into mulch for the tea garden. There's a great program in place that encourages the locals to use the plant for their fuel instead of gathering firewood to burn. Talk about a commitment to sustainability!
Later, Natalia and I headed down the mountain to meet her boyfriend (and my friend and webdesigner) Pat. He had just flown in from Kolkata and we arrived at the airport to surprize him. Rajah arrived a little later and we all waited for some of Rajah's business associates while talking about politics, mangoes in Dubai, and plastic surgeons over a very large beer that was brewed with Himalayan spring water and mixed into shanties with Sprite from a bottle. Normally I don't drink beer during the day or Sprite, well, ever, but this was a pleasant exception to those rules. The associates, a couple from Hyderabad, arrived and we left for Makaibari again. The view of the mountains was the best I've seen so far. I guess Pat got lucky.
When we got back, we chatted more over tea and met with the leading staff of Makaibari. They seemed to be humble and proud of their work at the same time. It was such a contrast to so many Americans who are egomaniacs with no pride in their work. Natalia and Pat left for some alone time and I headed down to the shaman's house for some old-fashioned cold remedies. He had me taste a variety of bitter and sour roots from around Makaibari, each for a different purpose. Then, he have me a tuft of grasses and told me to dampen them, wrap them in cloth, and sniff the fumes to alleviate my cold. Afterward, I went on a walk and enjoyed the night view, and then read "The One-Straw Revolution" by Fukuoku (a loan from Rajah). I don't know if it was something the shaman gave me, the altitude, or just being at Makaibari, but by the time I got back to the hotel, I was on cloud nine. And that was BEFORE the tea-smoked mushrooms and African curry. I love this place.