Tea is not just a plantation crop in India but is magic. Especially in East Indian tea plantations, it is considered a mystical Himalayan herb. And why would it not be so when Darjeeling tea and Assam tea are favorites of Queen Elizabeth? India is the world’s second-largest producer of tea after China. It accounts for more than 25% of world tea production. India is also the second-highest consumer of tea. India accounts for around 12% of world tea exports. Certain varieties of tea are exclusively grown in East Indian tea plantations and are in great demand across the globe.
History of East Indian Tea Plantations
Tea was most likely brought to India by the silk caravans that traveled from China to Europe centuries ago. Some wild bushes began growing and native Indians used the leaves in their diet because of their medicinal properties. British East India Company officially introduced tea to the Indians. Formally, a British-led commercial tea plantation was first established in 1837 in Chabua in Upper Assam. It was their effort in breaking the Chinese monopoly in the world tea market. East Indian tea plantations are from where the history of tea begins.
Geographical spread of East Indian Tea Plantations
Himalayan foothills are best suitable for tea growth. The serene Darjeeling Hills (approximately 5000-6000 feet), the Terai region of North Bengal and Assam, the Assam Hills (bordering Nepal and Bhutan), and the Dooars region of Bengal and Assam, produce some of the world’s most delicious teas. Let’s have a look at some of the most popular East Indian tea plantations both with respect to their awesome production and location.
Tea and Plantations of Darjeeling Hills
Darjeeling tea is famous for its aroma and its consumption is considered a luxury. They are light and generally consumed without milk and sugar. November to February the tea bushes remain inactive and pruning is done to prepare the bushes for the next cycle. The first produce during March and April is called ‘First flush’ and is greenish and extremely light. The next pick after 15 days of the first round is the ‘Second Flush’ which is more aromatic and reddish in color.
Makaibari Tea Estate produces the world’s most expensive tea which reaches Buckingham Palace. Speaking of Makaibari, Rajah Banerjee, who ran his ancestral Makaibari tea estate for 47 years, must be mentioned. To him, tea meant the cosmos and that has revived the luck and performance of East Indian tea plantations. Taj Chia Kutir, located amidst the pedigreed Makaibari Tea Estate, with acres of green rolling upon each other and the snow-capped Kanchenjunga at the backdrop, act as a blissful getaway. Here you can enjoy the modern amenities and best of luxuries even when one with nature.
Glenburg Tea Estate is another premium luxury tea resort, set in the lap of nature, for one to enjoy the best of vintage styles. The old-world charm of this estate, established in 1859, is unparalleled.
Goomtee Tea Estate and Resort is another plantation stay that is both luxurious and rustic. Set up amidst lush forests, waterfalls, and aromatic tea bushes, the stay is magical.
If not a stay, at least spend some rejuvenating time amidst nature and sip the best teas at Margaret’s Deck at Margaret’s Hope, Kurseong.
Tea Plantations of Assam
The Brahmaputra River and the air of Eastern Himalaya must be responsible for making Assam the ‘Tea Capital of India. Assam has more than 800 tea estates. Monabarie Tea Estate of Biswanath District of Assam is the largest tea estate (1158 hectares) in Asia. Assam tea is redder and stronger than the Darjeeling variety and is best consumed with milk and sugar.
Out of the 800 tea estates, Dibrugarh District alone has 177 estates. Manohari Tea Estate is the most popular and sorted after by tea lovers. It is the oldest functioning tea estate. The luxurious tea retreat, spread across 1800 acres, is colonial. The sprawling 1000 acres of tea plantation soothes the urban eyes.
Wild Mahseer at Adabari Tea Estate is a biodiversity ark, set amidst raw nature. Established in 1864, one can experience the intermingling of the Raj-era and the authentic Assamese. The stay here is healing and the soul is bound to blend in with the serenity of the forests with the snow-capped Himalayas as a backdrop, and the enormous Brahmaputra River and the simplicity of the locals.
Teas of Dooars (Siliguri, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, and Cooch Behar), Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh
The tea grown in these areas is darker and less exotic than the Darjeeling varieties. However, the plantations, all along the roads look ravishing. There are some amazing homestays amidst these gardens at the Himalayan foothills, surrounded by dense forests of Dooars.
Luxury stays and tea boutique resorts like MAYFAIR Tea Resort, Siliguri, are also available.
Sikkim Hills and Hills bordering Assam and Arunachal Pradesh are also contributors among East Indian tea plantations. However, the exotic qualities come from Darjeeling Hills and Assam and Darjeeling and Assam teas have GI (Geographical Indications) tag.
The tea industry did not end when the British left India. In fact, the tea market in India has been growing ever since. Different and new ways of tea infusion brewing and consumption have evolved. Tea drives away toxic and is therapeutic literally. When one visits the East Indian tea plantations, she feels the same. Sipping hot tea at the tea plantation is blissful and therapeutic.
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.