Darjeeling Diary – Morning Sun & the Cup of Tea

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The night was peaceful until a loud sound woke me up. It was like somebody knocking a door with painful urgency. It was the rains. I had only short meetings with the monsoon of Darjeeling despite being well into the season but now it seems she has come with full energy. The tin sheds of the room just below my window was making the sound. These were meant for the staffs of the hotel. I don’t remember when the noise reduced. Either the intensity was gone or my ears adjusted to it – in a very short time I was again sleeping. The first thing I did after waking up to rush to the window and see if it was still raining – to my joy, it wasn’t- followed by taking a quick look at my wristwatch – it was 7:00.

As I walked across the Mall, which was in a completely different mood now, I remembered the tits & bits of the history of The glorious Glenary’s;

 – PIN IT FOR FUTURE –

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The confectionery has maintained almost the same menu for its entire life and that is more than a century long. It is not a simple task considering huge changes in materials, style, standards and most importantly the taste of customers have vastly changed in this period. They have, however, coped with all odds and kept things more or less unchanged. The ovens of Glenary’s still produces one of the best confectioneries in the country. The morning is especially the best time to visit because then you get things just out of the ovens and the entire place remains full of the aroma of the freshly baked items.

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Glenary’s is not exactly a German Bakery but has an extremely strong connection with the country and its long tradition of bread making which is surely one reason they have kept things going so well. The History is long and full of twists. An Italian gentleman, Mr Vado came to Darjeeling and opened a confectionary – ‘Vado’. Within a few years, Mr Pliva, a German, invested in it and the joint venture became ‘Vado & Pliva’. Mr Vado, however, soon left leaving all stakes with his partner who named it Pliva’s. All these happened in a beautiful building on the road leading to Planter’s club from the Mall. The building was named – Glenary. Mr Pliva was a magnificent entrepreneur who took his confectionary to a new high. He brought fellow German confectioners on three years contract and they started to use legendary German bread making tricks to create some of the marvellous loaves. He was great in marketing not only his establishment but through him, many Europeans came to know about Darjeeling and came here. Occasional parties with a live performance by a Goan band were a big hit among the elite residents. Things did not last well for long though. As the country approached towards independence, the number of European residents reduced and Mr Pliva became uncertain about its future. He left the bakery to a Patna based businessman Mr T Sinha.

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Mr Pliva, however, was there to stay, not in his body but with his soul. Long before all these, when things were perfect, he had a dedicated manager to look after his bakery – Mr Augustine Tarcius Edwards. Born and brought up at Kalimpong, Mr Edwards was young, energetic and enthusiastic who, after trying his luck in few other fields, landed here. His charismatic personality soon impressed his boss and his eagerness to learn made him a very good manager. He soon gathered huge knowledge about the business. Young Edwards, however, left the job in a hurry to join the British Army which he again left after the independence of the country. Edwards returned to the place he knew most – the Pliva’s but to his surprise, the name was changed to the name of the building and the owner was gone. The new owner was having a tough time running the business which could have closed down any moment.

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He could not let that happen as he took charge of the things. Along with two businessmen Mr Badal and Mr Gaulstan, he started operating things in the bakery which was still under the ownership of Mr Sinha. The other two could not see much fortune in the business and left leaving only Edwards. It was probably the biggest turning point for the bakery because it became fully under his control. He took a lease from Mr SInha in 1959 and his entire family started working there. The staffs already working had great fillings for Edwards and along with his family members, they started to run it as it was before. All experiments were stopped and things were taken back to its original period – Mr Pliva’s time. Chocolate Éclairs, Lemon Tart, Chocolate Rolls, Jam Doughnuts, Marzipans, Chocolates in the bakery and The Sizzlers, Baked Cheese Macaroni and The Fish Au Gratin in the restaurant are some items which are served here from the time of its birth. There was no looking back. A few decades back, Edwards Family bought the entire stake from Mr Sinha and now they are the owners of the Glenary’s. It is still run as a family business and the loaves of bread, pastries, cakes, chocolates taste just as they used to a century ago.

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I was welcomed by the red telephone booth which stands in true axis with the main entrance. The cake & pastry counter on left had a few customers standing while the tea counter on its right was empty. I went straight towards the furthest corner where the spiral staircase is located. I took a seat by the window – though I generally prefer the ones on the terrace, couldn’t take any chances with the monsoon. The World Cup fever, as in the whole city, was in fullest and the tables were clad with flags of Spain & Portugal. It seems the owner is a big fan of Christiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta. My natural instinct took me to a table with a flag of Portugal.

A group of young boys were having an intense discussion on the prospects of Argentina progressing to the quarterfinals. One of them was wearing a Barcelona jersey – surely with the number 10 on the back. Another was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt which was proudly showing Messi’s face tattooed on his biceps.

The bred counter, which has ‘Pastries Puddings Pies and Puffs’ written in bright colours on top truly is an exclusive collection of baked items. My personal favourite Lemon Tarts were just assembled and I could feel the aroma already – despite those being behind the glass counter. As a poster on the old iron pillars suggests – desserts are a must for us and the desserts of Glenary’s are nothing but out of the world. I also decided to try the Port Patties but before that, I needed to order something more feeling. So I ordered a plate of Chicken Hotdog and a pot of Darjeeling Tea as I grabbed a newspaper from the stand. The food as always was delicious. on my last visit, I have tried Roast Pork Sandwich which was also mouthwatering and this time too, I was amazed.

Soon, my lemon tart and pork patties were served and in the teapot, there was enough tea left to make two more cups. This is something you should keep in mind if you are travelling in a group. The small teapot which costs only Rs.70/- can easily serve 3 cups of tea. I was still not done though I have had a lot. I couldn’t resist myself from ordering a black forest and a pineapple pastry – both are quite famous for the best of reasons.

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The cloud which was hovering over us since last night suddenly made way for the sun and the first rays of the morning sun appeared on my table. I lowered my book for a while to check if the Kunchenjungha can be seen – there was no hope for that though. The first ray of sun on the golden yellow tea was a true madness. The group of soccer lover left and two pretty young ladies, travellers, occupied the seat. They started speaking in Bengali which made my ears alert. I was not really overhearing but could not keep myself totally aloof also. They were having a discussion on practically everything – soccer, politics, films and books and it was all interconnected.

I kept on watching my half-full cup of Darjeeling Tea and wondered which is more golden – the tea or the ray. They were inseparable. It was time to move as I had planned for an in-depth tour of a Tea Garden but before leaving I ordered one more item – a Rum ball. It was like batting in the slog overs when you need to push a bit harder. The Rum ball was again a big hit. Now was the time to get a few chocolates as my pass time food. These chocolates are made in the moulds which were there on the first day of the restaurant. These are really historic chocolates which taste equally good.

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Every time I have been to Darjeeling, I have come here and it has never disappointed me. If the ambience and the food of the restaurant surprise you, the items from the bakery, which also predates by five years, should make you fall in love. You will leave Glenary’s for sure but #Glenary’s will never leave you. If you have not been to Glenary’s, your Darjeeling visit is incomplete – such is its tradition and legacy. Darjeeling and Glenary’s are complementing each other for more than a century and I wish this goes on for many more centuries.

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