India’s tea estates are places of beauty and serenity. Majestic hills and mountains peek through puffy clouds as the sun climbs out behind them, and little alleys make their way through the mist past local women dressed in brightly coloured clothes! Think crisp mountain air, lush forests and mysterious walking trails. Here is why we think your next getaway should be planned around a tea plantation! Check out these excellent vacation stays in the midst of greenery, clouds, mist and pure peace.
1. Nilgiris,Tamil Nadu
Situated in South India, this picturesque range of undulating hills has tea growing at elevations high enough for the climate to be beautiful almost throughout the year. Nilgiri Tea, one of India’s most distinctive teas, has been named after the Nilgiris or Blue Mountains where it is grown, because of the saxe-blue Kutinji flower which covers the hills when it blooms once in 12 years. The hilly landscape of Nilgiri , unlike Darjeeling and Assam, grows tea plants all over the year. The major teas produced on the Nilgiri hills are the Oolong and black tea.
Places like Ooty, Coonoor and Kotagiri of the Nilgiri region are famous not only for their flavoured teas, but also because these beautiful hill stations offer a very pleasant getaway destination for vacationers.
Places to visit – Ooty, Coonoor
Things to see/do – Nature walks in the plantations, horseback riding, botanical garden in Ooty, photography from Dodabetta, train ride from Ooty to Coonoor
Plantations to visit in the area – Destiny farm-stay, Tiger Hill, Craigmore, Colacumby, Nonsuch Dunsandale, Chamraj, Glendale, Corsley, Pascoes Woodlands, Parkside
2. Travancore and Munnar, Kerala
Munnar enjoys a salubrious climate all round the year. The area is surrounded by lush green plantations of tea, coffee, coconut, pepper, cardamom, rubber and eucalyptus. It was once the summer retreat of the Maharaja of Travancore! The tea has its unique character- a fairly balanced tea with body and briskness.
Munnar is breathtakingly beautiful; a haven of peace and tranquility and an idyllic tourist destination. Unending expanses of tea plantations, pristine valleys, mountains and waterfalls, exotic species of flora and fauna in its wild sanctuaries and forests and the aroma of spice scented cool air tempt visitors throughout the year.
Places to visit – Munnar and Thekkady
Things to see/do – Wildlife sanctuary, bonfires, nature walks, bird watching, Attukal Waterfalls, Echo Point
Plantations to visit in the area – Tea County, AVT tea, Kolukkumalai tea estate, Gruenberg tea plantation,The Windermere Estate, Tata Tea Estate, Brooke Bond Tea Estate, Micheal’s Tea, The Tea Sanctuary
3. Kangra, Himachal Pradesh
Kangra, known as “the valley of gods,” is famous for its distinctly flavoured tea. Below the towering and exquisitely beautiful snow-clad Dhauladhar Mountain, tea has been grown on the gentle slopes of the outer Himalayas since 1949. Due to the favourable natural climate that’s free of pests and insects, tea is grown organically in the Kangra valley.The Kangra region is famous for its range of green (Hyson, Young Hyson and coarse grades) and black teas (Pekoe, Pekoe Suchong, Coarse teas and Fannings) with their exquisite flavours.
Places to visit – Kangra, Mandi, Palampur
Things to see/do – Temples, Kangra Fort, Pong Dam wetlands, Kareri Lake
Plantations to visit in the area – Tara Villa tea estate, Darang tea estate, Chandpur Tea Estate
4. Annamalais, Kerala-Tamil Nadu Border
The Annamalais, a range of hills with altitudes from 900 to 1,600 metres lies between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The tea from Annamalais generates a brisk and bright golden saffron liquor in the cup. It has a strong flavour and a medium to high tone fragrance with biscuit to floral notes.
Annamalai Hills are known for their abundant wildlife. Eravikulam National Park, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Annamalai Tiger Reserve are some of the places to visit. The Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in these hills are well known for elephants.
Places to go – Yercaud – Malakiparai Estate, Pachaimallai Estate, Pannimade Estate, Uralikal Estate and Velonie Estate
Things to see/do – Monkey Falls, Aliyar, the Crocodile Breeding Centre at Amaravati, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, Attakatti, Mirar, Kullipatti, Manompally, Chinnar, Varagaliar, Manjampatty
Plantations to visit in the area – Sinna Dorai’s bungalow, Banyan Tree farm stay, Waterfall ropeway bungalow, Stanmore bungalow
5. Wayanad, Kerala
Like the Annamalais, planters started with coffee cultivation in Wayanad in 1845. The first tea plantation was set up in 1874. A gold rush commenced in Wayanad in 1880s, which lured overzealous speculators into buying out coffee and tea plantations in Cherambadi, Devala and Pundalur. Tea from Wayanad is medium toned with a clean fragrance and produces an earthy reddish, full bodied liquor in the cup.
Vythiri and Meppadi are areas if you are keen to see some of the tea plantations in Wayanad. The best time to visit a tea plantation is those post the monsoon season.
Places to go – Kalpetta, Meppadi, VythiriThings to see/do – Waterfalls, Plantation walks, picking and buying spices at the market, Edakkal caves, Poovar lake
Plantations to visit in the area – Vythiri, Chateau Woods, Little Home resort, Tranquil resort, Coffee Aroma resort, The Treasure Trove, Wynberg resorts, Windflower
6. Chickmagalur and Coorg, Karnataka
The state is the coffee hub of India, but also produces around 5 million kg of tea every year! Tea plantations are mostly located around Chikmagalur, which is located in the Baba Budan Hills of the Sahyadris range. It has a clean and healthy climate that’s ideal for tea planting. Teas from Karnataka have a fair amount of briskness and body. They have a simple, balanced character and are medium toned. You can consume these teas multiple times a day!
Places to go – Chikmagalur, Coorg
Things to see/do – Plantation visits, Raja seat point, kayaking, Talacauvery temple and mountain peak, Dubare elephant camp, Mulyangiri peak top, tea and coffee shopping
Plantations to visit in the area – Tata plantation trails, Glenlorna plantation tea estate, Thippanahalli homestay
7. Dooars and Terai, West Bengal
Dooars politically constitutes the plains of Darjeeling district, whole of Jalpaiguri District, upper region of Cooch Behar district in West Bengal and a small part of Assam.The first plantation in the Terai was set up by James White in 1862. The name ‘Dooars’ is derived from doors, highlighting the region’s significance as a gateway to Northeast India and Bhutan.Tea from Dooars is described as clear, black, heavy with good volumetric count. Terai tea on the other hand is known for its spicy and slightly sweet taste.
Lying in the Himalayan foothills in North Bengal, Dooars has great natural beauty. The wildlife-rich tropical forests, innumerable hill streams cutting across the green carpet of tea gardens and undulating plains, low hills rising up from the rivers- all make it one of the most picturesque destinations. A drive through the Dooars plains can be an experience of a lifetime!
Places to go – Siliguri, Jalpaiguri
Things to see/do – Jaldapara sanctuary, National parks, monasteries,Gorumara National park, Buxa Tiger reserve
Plantations to visit in the area – Phaskowa tea estate, Fagu tea estate, Samsing tea estate
8. Jorhat, Assam
Assam is home to the single largest contiguous tea growing region in the world and is the only region globally, where tea is grown in the plains! Tea from Assam has a rich, full bodied, deep-amber liquor with a brisk, strong and malty taste, making it ideal for the early morning cup. Orthodox Assam teas have been registered as a geographical indication (GI) in India!
If you visit in the month of November, you can be part of the Assam Tea festival organized by Assam tourism. A completely unique experience which should not be missed! It gives you the opportunity to make a visit to the magnificent tea gardens and enjoy the exciting river cruises. Tourists can make a visit to the Guwahati Tea Auction Center in Guwahati too, which is the largest in India.
Places to go – Jorhat
Things to see/do – Majuli Island and monasteries, Sibsagar Siva idol, Kaziranga National Park, Kamakhya temple, Assam state zoo and botanical gardens, plantation tours, folk dance evenings
Plantation stays – Thengal Manor, Banyan Grove, Karizanga Golf Resort/Burra Sahib Bungalow
9. Darjeeling, West Bengal
Darjeeling has been growing the Chinese variety of the tea plant since 1841 and it’s environment has a unique and magical effect on the tea bush. Tea from Darjeeling is sold at very high premiums in the international market because of its Muscatel (grapes) flavour. This flavour cannot be replicated in tea across any other market and this is why Darjeeling tea has a geographical indication (GI) status that is protected across the world, provided only to 87 tea gardens in the region!
Plantations in Darjeeling are situated at altitudes between 600 metres and 2,000 metres above sea level. The region gets adequate rainfall and the location of the plantations at these altitudes across steep slopes ensures excellent drainage. The soil, the intermittent clouds hovering above the mountains and the bright sunshine – all contribute to the Darjeeling magic.
Places to go – Darjeeling, Kurseong, Ghoom
Things to see/do – Tiger Hill, Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda, Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, Darjeeling Ropeway
Plantations to visit in the area – Makaibari, Glenburn, Tumsong tea retreat
So go ahead, book yourself a tea trail treat! Tell us about your tea-tastic experiences in the comments below!