Wednesday April 8, 2009 | 2 comments
Second in a series on World Tea Tours’ Tea Tour of India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
More than any other beverage, tea evokes romance and exoticism. And few experiences are more romantic or exotic than climbing on the back of a camel for a ride along the same paths traveled by the ancient tea caravans and then having afternoon tea with the King of Shahpura, in the city of Jaipur in northwestern India. Yet this was exactly how Dan Robertson, owner of The Tea House and World Tea Tours, and his fellow travelers spent one of their days during their Tea Tour of India this past October.
After a morning that began with a one-hour jaunt perched on the top of a camel, with only a blanket separating each rider from the camel’s coarse hair, the group arrived at the Shahpura House, a “city palace” that has been converted into a hotel. Luxuriously appointed in rich reds and golds, the Shahpura House reflects traditional Rajasthan architecture and the elegance of a bygone era. Upon their arrival for afternoon tea with the King, who no longer wields formal power, members of the tea tour were directed to a receiving room, where each was adorned with a bindi and a lei of orange marigolds.
Then it was time for tea. With an official announcement, his Majesty made his entrance and took his place at the head of the room. The intimate gathering with just nine guests was held in the receiving hall with its towering three-story arched ceiling. Attendants in tunics and turbans scurried about, serving Indian black tea and finger sandwiches, ensuring that all the accouterments of a British afternoon tea were in order.
What, you might ask, does one discuss with royalty? Perhaps not too surprisingly, the state of the American economy dominated a good part of the conversation, along with the pros and cons of outsourcing. His Excellency also provided the group with some family history, explaining that he was a member of the Shekhawat, a sub-clan of Kachwaha Rajputs found primarily in Rajasthan, India. His forebears, whose portraits graced the walls of the receiving room, seemed to nod their assent as the King reviewed his genealogy with the guests.
A stopping point on the early trade route for tea and herbs, 21st Century Jaipur and the Shahpura House proved to be an equally magical stop on the World Tea Tours’ journey through tea-rich India.
Many thanks to Dan Robertson for all the photos, except the one of the group’s tea with the king, which was taken by Karen Bergmann.