Tea Tour in Northeast India: Sip Your Way Through The Aromatic Delights

Taking a tea tour in Northeast India is among the best ways to learn about India’s rich tea heritage. Renowned tea plantations in Northeastern Indian states like Assam, Darjeeling, and Manipur produce some of the world’s best teas.

Discover the tea-growing regions of central India and discover how to make your morning brew. Learn about the various types of tea (green, black, white, etc.), tea cultivation and processing, meet growers and makers, experience the local way of life, and even find new teas.

Northeast India’s Tea Plantation History

Northeast India’s tea plantations have a fascinating history that dates back to the 1800s. The history of tea in Northeast India started with the introduction of the Camellia sinensis tea plant by the British East India Company. In the early 19th century, the British were looking for a good place to grow tea outside of China, which at the time held a monopoly on tea production. Because of its perfect soil and climate, Assam was proposed as a potential site for the production of tea.

In Assamese forests, Scottish explorer and trader Robert Bruce discovered wild tea plants growing in 1823. He collected samples and sent them to the Botanical Gardens in Calcutta for identification. However, Charles Alexander Bruce, his brother, contributed more to the tea industry in the area.

Furthermore, the first commercial tea plantation in Assam was established thanks in large part to the efforts of Assamese nobleman and entrepreneur Maniram Dewan. With British help, Dewan began cultivating tea on his estate in 1840. His work was essential in demonstrating the viability and potential profitability of growing tea in the region.

Inspired by the success of the early plantations, British businesses and entrepreneurs established tea gardens in Assam and other Northeast Indian regions. The lush plains of Assam proved ideal for growing tea because of their loamy soil and abundant rainfall. The first tea garden was established in 1837 and was called Chabua Tea Estate. As more and more tea gardens followed suit, the area rose to prominence as a producer of tea.

In the middle of the 19th century, tea growing in West Bengal’s Darjeeling region expanded because of the region’s perfect climate. The British developed tea gardens in the area’s hilly terrain, taking advantage of Darjeeling’s chilly temperatures and foggy weather. Due to its unique flavor profile, Darjeeling tea gained international recognition very quickly.

Northeast India’s tea industry grew rapidly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Large-scale tea plantations were established, and British companies invested heavily in production and infrastructure. With the prosperity of the region’s tea estates, the production of fine teas evolved into a major economic activity.

After India gained independence in 1947, Indian management seized control of the tea plantations in Northeast India. The tea business continued to expand and became an important part of the regional economy. Assam and Darjeeling tea are two of the premium teas that Northeast India is now recognized for; these two teas are known throughout the world for their unique flavors and attributes.

Tea Tour in Northeast India

darjeeling tea tour in northeast india

The culture surrounding the enormous tea plantations is a unique phenomenon and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Darjeeling tea is widely regarded as the best tea on the market because its flavor is so unique that it cannot be replicated. Connoisseurs say that tea without Darjeeling would be like wine without the prestige of Champagne. Some of the best tea in the world is produced in Assam and Darjeeling.

Here’s a suggested itinerary for a tea tour in Northeast India:

  • Guwahati, Assam: In Northeast India, you should start your tea tour in Guwahati, the state capital of Assam. Visit the Assam State Museum to learn about the history of tea in the region as well as the rich cultural legacy of the city. Take a boat ride on the Brahmaputra River for even more breathtaking views.
  • Jorhat: Journey from Guwahati to Jorhat, dubbed the “Tea Capital of the World.” Visit some of the most renowned tea estates in the area, such as the Tocklai Tea Research Institute, which conducts extensive studies on the cultivation and processing of tea. There’s the breathtaking Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary nearby to explore.
  • Dibrugarh: Proceed to Dibrugarh, which is a significant Assamese tea-producing area. See how tea is picked, processed, and tasted by visiting estates like Mancotta, Naharkatia, or Doomur Dullung. Don’t miss the opportunity to stay in a heritage tea bungalow and experience colonial living.
  • Darjeeling, West Bengal: From Assam, travel to Darjeeling, a picturesque hill station in West Bengal. One of the most sought-after teas in the world, Darjeeling tea, is produced in Darjeeling. Often referred to as the “Champagne of Teas,” Darjeeling tea is well known for its delicate, floral flavor. The tea gardens of Darjeeling, tucked away among the charming hills, offer breathtaking views of terraced plantations against the snow-capped Himalayas.
  • Imphal, Manipur: Visit Manipur’s capital city of Imphal to round off your tea tour. When visiting the breathtaking state, visitors can experience the flavorful aromas of the black and green teas grown nearby and stroll through lush tea estates. Nillai Tea Garden, which is situated on Hallui Hills and is well-known for its distinctive green tea and extensive tea selection, is one such tea estate that attracts a lot of tourists.

Things To Do During The Tea Tour

tasting tea tour in northeast india

During a tea tour in Northeast India, there are several exciting activities and experiences you can enjoy.

  • Tea Tasting Sessions: Attend tea-tasting events to learn about the flavors and aromas of teas from Northeast India. Tea tasters with expertise can teach you how to appreciate different types of tea and help you identify their unique characteristics and nuances.
  • Stay in Tea Bungalows: Reserve a room at a heritage tea bungalow to experience colonial life firsthand. Several tea estates rent out these charming bungalows, where you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the plantations as well as the hospitality of the owners.
  • Tea Factory Tours: Take a guided tour of tea factories to witness the techniques employed in the tea-processing industry. Follow the steps as freshly picked tea leaves are transformed into the final product—rolling, oxidation, drying, and withering. Find out more about the steps that go into making tea.
  • Tea Shopping: A wonderful opportunity provided by a tea tour in Northeast India is the chance to purchase fine teas directly from the source. Tea factory outlets or specialty tea boutiques offer a wide selection of teas, including oolong, white, green, and black teas. These teas make lovely presents for tea connoisseurs or as takeaways.

Plan your tea tour in Northeast India during the appropriate tea-growing seasons to witness the estates in full bloom. Most people agree that April through October, when the weather is pleasant and tea picking is at its peak, is the ideal time to visit.

The tea tour in Northeast India is an unforgettable experience for both tourists and tea enthusiasts. It blends natural beauty, cultural immersion, and a distinctive appreciation of tea.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which Northeastern state is well-known for its tea?

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.

What distinguishes Darjeeling tea from Assam tea?

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.