One of the best ways to discover India’s rich tea heritage is by taking a tea tour in Northeast India. Some of the best teas in the world are produced on the famed tea plantations in Northeastern Indian states like Assam, Darjeeling, and Manipur.
Explore the tea regions of central India and learn about the process involved in preparing your morning brew. Discover the local culture, make new friends and connections, meet the growers and makers, learn about the various types of tea (green, black, white, etc.), tea cultivation and processing, and even source new teas.
History of Tea Plantation in Northeast India
The fascinating history of tea plantations in Northeast India stretches back to the 1800s. The British East India Company introduced the Camellia sinensis tea plant, which is where the history of tea in Northeast India began. The British were searching for a suitable area outside of China, which at the time had a monopoly on tea production, to cultivate tea in the early 19th century. Assam was suggested as a possible location for tea production due to its ideal climate and soil.
Robert Bruce, a Scottish explorer and trader, found wild tea plants growing in Assamese forests in 1823. He gathered samples and submitted them for identification to the Botanical Gardens in Calcutta. But it was his brother, Charles Alexander Bruce, who made a greater contribution to the region’s tea industry.
In addition, Assamese entrepreneur and nobleman Maniram Dewan was instrumental in the establishment of Assam’s first commercial tea plantation. On his estate, Dewan started growing tea in 1840 with British assistance. His work was crucial in proving that growing tea in the area is both feasible and potentially profitable.
Assam and other regions of Northeast India saw the establishment of tea gardens by British businesses and entrepreneurs, who were motivated by the early plantations’ success. With their loamy soil and copious amounts of rainfall, the fertile plains of Assam turned out to be perfect for growing tea. The Chabua Tea Estate, the first tea garden, was founded in 1837. The area became a significant tea-producing region as many more tea gardens followed suit.
Due to its ideal climate, West Bengal’s Darjeeling region saw an expansion of tea cultivation in the middle of the 19th century. Taking advantage of the cool temperatures and misty weather in Darjeeling, the British established tea gardens in the hilly terrain of the area. Darjeeling tea’s distinct flavor profile quickly brought it recognition on a global scale.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Northeast India’s tea industry expanded and developed quickly. Large-scale tea plantations were created, and British businesses made significant infrastructure and production investments. The production of fine teas developed into a major economic activity as the region’s tea estates prospered.
The tea plantations in Northeast India were taken over by Indian management following India’s independence in 1947. The tea industry kept growing and developed into a vital sector of the local economy. Assam and Darjeeling tea, which are well-known throughout the world for their distinctive flavors and qualities, are among the premium teas that Northeast India is now known for.
Tea Tour in Northeast India
The culture that surrounds the massive tea plantations is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a unique phenomenon. Because Darjeeling tea’s flavor is so distinctive that it cannot be duplicated, it is generally accepted as the best tea available. Tea without Darjeeling, according to connoisseurs, would be like wine without Champagne’s prestige. Assam and Darjeeling, are two regions known for producing some of the world’s best tea.
Here’s a suggested itinerary for a tea tour in Northeast India:
- Guwahati, Assam: The capital of Assam, Guwahati, is where you should begin your tea tour in Northeast India. Discover the rich cultural heritage of the city and the history of tea in the area by going to the Assam State Museum. For even more amazing views, consider going for a boat ride on the Brahmaputra River.
- Jorhat: Travel from Guwahati to Jorhat, which is known as the “Tea Capital of the World.” See some of the well-known tea estates in the region, like the Tocklai Tea Research Institute, which carries out a great deal of research on the growing and processing of tea. In the vicinity, there’s the stunning Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary to explore.
- Dibrugarh: Go on to Dibrugarh, another important Assamese tea-producing region. Visit tea estates to witness the plucking, processing, and tasting of tea, such as Mancotta, Naharkatia, or Doomur Dullung. Don’t pass up the chance to live like a colonist and stay in a heritage tea bungalow.
- Darjeeling, West Bengal: Go to Darjeeling, a charming hill station in West Bengal, from Assam. Darjeeling is known for producing some of the most sought-after teas in the world: Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling tea, sometimes called the “Champagne of Teas,” is renowned for its subtle, flowery taste. Nestled amidst the picturesque hills, Darjeeling’s tea gardens provide stunning vistas of terraced plantations against the snow-capped Himalayas.
- Imphal, Manipur: Finally, conclude your tea tour by visiting Imphal, the capital city of Manipur. Travelers can sample the aromatic flavors of black and green teas grown in the region and explore verdant tea estates when they visit the stunning state. One such tea estate that draws a lot of tourists is Nillai Tea Garden, which is located on Hallui Hills and is known for its unique green tea and wide assortment of tea.
Things To Do During The Tea Tour
During a tea tour in Northeast India, there are several exciting activities and experiences you can enjoy.
- Tea Tasting Sessions: Take part in tea-tasting events to discover the various scents and flavors of Northeast Indian teas. You can learn the art of appreciating tea from knowledgeable tea tasters who will assist you in recognizing the subtleties and distinctive qualities of various tea types.
- Stay in Tea Bungalows: Relive the lifestyle of the colonists by booking a stay at a heritage tea bungalow. These quaint bungalows are available for rent at many tea estates, letting you take in the tranquil atmosphere of the tea plantations and the owners’ hospitality.
- Tea Factory Tours: Visit tea factories with a guide to see the methods used in the processing of tea. Witness the processes of rolling, oxidation, drying, and withering as freshly picked tea leaves are transformed into the finished product. Learn more about the process involved in producing tea.
- Tea Shopping: Buying premium teas straight from the source is a great opportunity offered by a tea tour in Northeast India. You can sample a variety of teas, including black, green, white, and oolong varieties, by going to tea factory outlets or specialty tea boutiques. These teas are wonderful gifts for tea lovers or as mementos to bring home.
To see the tea estates in full bloom, schedule your tea tour in Northeast India during the proper tea-growing seasons. The best time to visit is usually thought to be between April and October when the weather is nice and tea picking is in full swing.
Travelers and tea lovers alike will have a memorable time on the tea tour in Northeast India, which combines natural beauty, cultural immersion, and an appreciation of tea in a unique way.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Situated on both banks of the Brahmaputra River, Assam borders Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China. It is the world’s most productive tea-growing region.
With its strong, nutty flavor, Assam tea is best enjoyed with milk and sugar. Darjeeling tea’s robust and spicy flavor is infused by the region’s climate, so it’s best to sip it without milk or sugar.