There is no better place to savour a cup of tea than at a plantation, close to the land that the leaves were plucked from, overlooking hillsides rustled by the wind. India has a bounty of stays for tea lovers, from colonial estates that have been refurbished into quaint home stays to tea-pluckers who have opened up their homes to travelers.
Glenburn Tea Estate
Home to almost a quarter of India's overall tea production, Darjeeling is situated in the Himalayan foothills and offers incredible views alongside its characteristically fragrant and subtle tea. The Glenburn bungalow itself sits on a small hillock surrounded by the 1000 acre Glenburn tea estate and the views of Kanchenjunga are magnificent. It is literally right in front of you as you sit on the veranda.
Glenburn is a 150 year old plantation house, situated on a small hilltop in a valley above the River Rungeet and close to Darjeeling. The main bungalow has a wonderful, long verandah with comfortable chairs running across the front of it. This place is perfect for a laidback holiday on a working tea estate, where you can go on wonderful walks as well simply sit back and have cups of the aromatic Darjeeling tea and enjoy breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks from your balcony.
If West Bengal's tea gardens are beautiful, the ones in Assam are no less. Located at a distance of just 25km from Tezpur, Wild Mahseer is a boutique resort, which was originally built by British planters in the 19th century.
There is a three-bedroom heritage bungalow along with three other smaller bungalows, offering its guests with the kind of living experience that any tea lover can dream of. You can also go for activities like rafting and dolphin-watching, as the mighty Brahmaputra river flows past the place.
Kerala is often mentioned when it comes to spices however it also boasts some amazing plantation stays. 20 kms from Munnar enroute to the famed sandal wood forests of Marayur, stands this magnificent villa called Talayar. Set amidst sprawling tea gardens it has passed through many hands since the original allocation of land for the development of tea gardens.
In 1887 the first tract of lands were acquired by Mr. John Payne and later the estates passed through numerous hands including a Baron Von Rosenberg, who along with partner A W Turner later sold these lands to The Devicolam Estates Company.
The present owners acquired it in 1997 and primarily run the gardens as a tea plantation with a fully functional manufacturing facility, which is nearly a century old. Its frontal façade is full stone with ivy creepers and its fireplaces & chimneys are in perfect working condition even after a century.
The morning tearooms sport lovely French windows and have a hexagonal corner with a 180-degree view of the rolling tea gardens and the front lawns. The gardens were developed in the early 1930’s and the house sported the region’s most famous lawn tennis court for decades.
The best part about this property, aside from the plush accommodation, is that you get to pluck your own tea leaves, and wither, cut, tear, ferment and dry them for your own cup of chai.
And one cannot ever forget The Taj Savoy, an English-style retreat exuding colonial charm in Ooty, Tamil Nadu’s most famous hill-station. An oasis of calm, it provides old world comforts and gracious service while you explore tea plantations and Raj-era connections.
It dates back to the early Raj days of 1829. At this time it was a school for European children, and the massive wooden roof beams were dragged over the Ghats by elephant all the way from Tipu Sultan’s palace in Srirangapatnam!
Located on Sylks Road, ten minutes from the centre of town, the hotel offers glorious views of the blue Nilgiri Hills and has a charming English feel with its flowerbeds, lawns and clipped hedges. Housed in charming colonial bungalows, all guest rooms are spacious and fitted with either heating or a log fire and bay windows. The dining room is a miniature baronial hall with dark paneling, china painted with bucolic European scenes and a vast blazing fire.
Guests at this luxury spot can take day trips to the nearby tea plantation, go boating in Ooty Lake, and visit the area's waterfalls for a relaxing nature-filled Indian escape.
For a tranquil escape into nature (along with plenty of cups of chai), visitors to India shouldn't miss the opportunity to stay on one of these estates – some of the best tea plantation hotels in India.
Images courtesy of Glenburn Tea Estate, Wild Mahseer and Taj Hotels