Discover an album of experiences at these sublime Tea Estates, as you take Tea Tours to learn the art of Tea Culture
For most of us, tea is much more than just a daily ritual. Tea aficionados will tell you how the whole tea experience generates an acceptance of the world, a feeling of contentment and a pleasing exuberance. Tea initiates and concludes common and not-so-common discussions, and could sometimes act as an ice-breaker between fighting couples or friends.
According to recent trends, Tea Tourism has emerged as a niche segment on the world tourism map and is a wonderful recreational experience that provides ample scope to widen your horizons with regard to this popular beverage. Visiting tea gardens, learning the process of tea plucking, tea producing, tea tasting, and staying at tea bungalows are all part of Tea Tourism. This unique tour directly brings you in sync with nature, as you explore the lush green tea gardens, enjoying a cup of freshly brewed tea, under the shade of an umbrella at a plantation site. So, come and explore some of these stunning, colonial era tea estates, amidst lush green plantation sites to satisfy your tea cravings.
Makaibari Tea Estate
Known as the producer of Darjeeling’s most extravagant tea – Silver Tips Imperial – Makaibari Tea Estate is situated on the sloppy hills of Kurseong and is one of the oldest family-owned tea gardens in Darjeeling, established in 1859. Makaibari Tea Estate is a world in itself, replete with green landscapes and astonishing eco-diversity. The estate covers an area of 670 hectares, covering six ridges, with the plantation area covering only 120 hectares. Around 70% area is under forest cover and is a flourishing spot for numerous species of flora and fauna. Explore the stunning landscaped tea gardens as you take tea tours to learn the art of tea plucking, tea tasting or scaling the slopes where the tea grows. The tea estate offers a unique opportunity to take a peek into the daily lives of tea planters as they carefully pluck tea leaves, while you’re busy sipping a cup of fine Darjeeling tea. The tea estate has seven natural springs of pure water, which serves the entire community of planters, including a fossil with the impression of an elephant’s foot. Silver Tips Imperial (handmade Oolong Tea) is the most famous tea originating out of Makaibari Tea Estate, manufactured in limited quantities each year.
Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling
Step into the idyllic world of Glenburn, amidst stunning scenery and old-fashioned elegance and revel in the opportunity to see the rituals of tea production at this fairytale tea estate. Started by a Scottish tea company in 1859, Glenburn Tea Estate is a colonial-era plantation retreat sitting on a hillock above the banks of the River Rungeet, perched high up in the Himalayas, and overlooked by the mighty Kanchenjunga mountain range. There are two colonial-styled planter bungalows inside the estate – Burra Bungalow and Water Lily Bungalow – each with four suites, lush green surroundings, and open verandahs that lend a very English feel to the bungalows. One of the most expensive Darjeeling teas, Glenburn Darjeeling Moonshine Tea, with sweet notes of honeysuckle, sells for Rs 760 per 50g.
Spend some quality time as you head out to explore this vast tea estate, which is home to 140 species of birds and 42 varieties of butterflies. The tea tour experience at the estate begins with a guided tour, where a brief overview of the plantation site is provided to tourists. The Glenburn tea picker ladies help you learn the art of tea plucking and different types of pruning methods, after which you’re given a free hand to pluck those tea leaves and throw them into the tea basket. At the tea factory, the guided tour explains the process of tea making and the various methods involved in manufacturing the tea that ends in your teacup. The factory tour ends into a tea-tasting session, where you get to taste superfine blends of Glenburn teas, which are rich in flavour, aroma and appearance. Experience the Glenburn Gastronomy, as you indulge in exotic South-Asian delicacies and European dishes, all made out of the fresh ingredients from the well-stocked kitchen garden. Do try the marmalade and a whole collection of signature cakes and cookies. There are some unique Family Recipes as well on the menu that will satiate your palate. Truly, a few days of stay at this tea estate makes for an enriching and a complete experience in itself, and the lingering English cottage feel rounds up your ‘Glenburn Experience.’
Wild Mahseer, Assam
Since the discovery of the Camellia sinensis tea plant, in 1823, Assam rapidly blossomed into one of the largest tea-growing regions in the world, especially noted for its malty-flavoured Black Tea, which is known for its briskness and strong bright colour. There are many tea-producing estates in Assam, but one that strikes the eye is Wild Masheer, a part of Addabarie Tea Estate. At first glance, Wild Mahseer seems like a tea lover’s paradise, like an ancestral family home that you would love to keep visiting.
Blending colonial and Assamese architecture with high ceilings, sloping roofs, chequered floors, and enclosed verandas, Wild Mahseer was established in 1864 by the British Assam Tea Company for its supervisors and specialists. This award-winning heritage boutique hotel catches your attention, with its old-world charm amidst lush green tea plantations, the moment you set your foot inside it. Wild Mahseer comes with five tea-themed bungalows, named appropriately as – Ambrosia, Silver Tips, Golden Tips and First Flush.
The visit to the plantation site includes a drive through tea gardens, where tourists enjoy an end-to-end experience of how tea is grown, collected/harvested, processed in a traditional factory, then packed and sold in the market. Engage in the romance of tea tasting at the tea bar located at the First Flush dining pavilion, where you get to taste and savour 57 varieties and grades of tea sourced from every nook and corner of the world. Sample the unique blends made using alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and extracts to savour the wide boutique of teas. Located on the outskirts of Tezpur, Wild Mahseer is a perfect fusion of history and class tucked into a 22-acre sanctuary.
Many shades of Darjeeling Tea
Darjeeling White Tea is the most elegant tea produced in Darjeeling, having the distinct muscatel flavour of the traditional Darjeeling brews. This white tea is made from unopened buds, has a delicate aroma, and brews to a pale golden colour with a mellow taste and a tinge of sweetness.
This semi-fermented tea is made from finely plucked leaves and has the quality of both green and black teas. Oolong leaves are full-bodied tea leaves with a sweet aroma and the brew turns out to be dark orange in colour with the characteristic muscatel flavour.
Sipping from a cup of Darjeeling Green Tea brings you a unique floral aroma, followed by a tincture of nutty muscatel flavour, typical to Darjeeling teas, but unlike any other green tea, making for an unforgettable experience. Each flush lends a different character to the brew.
Darjeeling Black Tea is considered as the best black tea in India and the world, for its unique nutty muscatel notes that resemble no other tea. The black tea from the First Flush (mid-March harvest) is rich in flavour compared to the Second, Third, and Autumnal Flush, and is often called the champagne of teas.