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Tea Tourism in Northeast India

Guide to Tourist permits in Northeast
Most tea lovers probably know that Assam is the heart of tea trade and it produces the most premium CTC tea in the world. Owing to their proximity to Assam, most other NE states have also started tea cultivation. So, this brings us to the more pertinent questions, what about tea tourism, and where does one experience it? Let us discuss this in detail.

Tea Tourism in Northeast India

What Exactly is Tea Tourism?

Tea tourism is basically all about visiting tea gardens and staying out there if possible. You get a chance to explore how the trade works and how the tea gardens are run. They are generally spread across vast areas and the lush green plantations offer great views. They can be combined with visits to other nearby attractions. You can have a luxury stay in the middle of a tea garden but if you are on a budget, you can simply make a day visit from the nearest town.

What activities are included in a tea tour?

Stay at Heritage Bungalows

Most of the tea gardens, especially in Assam, came up during the British era. Tea planters built their own mansions in the middle of lush green tea gardens. So, many of these tea estates have turned their bungalows into heritage resorts for tourists. So, if you want to experience that colonial charm and luxury, a stay at a tea garden in Assam can provide you that. The most famous properties of this kind can be found in the upper Assam districts of Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Jorhat, Sonitpur etc. For example, I recently stayed at Sapoi Tea Estate near Dhekiajuli, which was established back in 1914 and has been run by the same family for several generations.

Colonial Grandeur at Sapoi Tea Estate

Tea Tasting

In any tea estate, you can go for a tea tasting session. This is something like wine tasting, where an expert will introduce you to different types of tea and tell you a few things about them. Then you will taste a bit of then and learn to appreciate them. For instance, at Sapoi, we not only tasted some brews prepared exclusively at that estate as well as some other premium brews from other parts of Assam.

Tea Tasting at Sapoi Tea Estate

Tea Garden & Factory Tours

The other essential activity in a tea garden is the tour of the garden and the factory. You can take leisurely walks or a jeep ride through the garden, take photographs and learn about the process. Similarly, the factories give you additional insight into the trade.

Culture of Tea Garden Workers

Especially in Assam, the tea garden workers have a unique history. They were originally from places like Odisha and Jharkhand, who were brought here by the British to work in the gardens. They are a sizeable population and they have their own song, dance, and culture that you can explore if you get time.

Additional Detours

The good things are that Northeast India is full of many attractions and most of these tea garden resorts of many other nearby attractions that you can visit. For example, various tea gardens in Assam are located very near to major National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries such as Kaziranga, Orang, Nameri, Dibru Saikhowa, Hoolongpar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary etc. Historical places like SIvasagar or the river island of Majuli is also worth visiting.

Tea Growing Regions in North East India

While Assam is the hub of tea trade, more or less every state in the Northeast has tea gardens although not every place has realized the potential for tea tourism.

Tea Tourism in Assam

Assam Tea Garden
Assam is the center of tea trade. Tea gardens can be found all over Assam although the concentration is higher on upper Assam. Many of these tea gardens have to converted colonial bungalows to boutique properties. I recently stayed at Sapoi Tea Estate where a 100-year-old bungalow is now hosting guests. We also attended a tea tasting session, got a tour of the garden, and learned a thing or two about the trade. There are other such properties spread across Assam. The best-known properties are to be found in districts like Sonitpur, Darrang, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, etc. on both northern and southern banks of the Brahmaputra.

Tea Tourism in Sikkim

Considering its proximity to Darjeeling, Sikkim has a similar landscape and climate suitable for tea although it basically has one major tea estate which is famous and is a major tourist attraction too. It is called Temi Tea Estate and it is a short drive from the town of Namchi in South Sikkim. It is a beautiful estate that looks better due to the hilly terrain. It also has a property where you can stay but you can also simply make a day visit. You can also but packaged organic tea from the shops here.

Tea Tourism in Arunachal

Although not too prevalent, Arunachal does boast of a few tea gardens and some of them have been making waves lately with their own trademark varieties. One of them also came up with something that broke all the records at the auction.  Most of these tea estates are found along Siang and Lohit Valleys, near Pasighat and Wakro. Some of them have tourist lodges but overall the tourist infrastructure is not as extensive as in Assam.

Tea Tourism in Manipur

Manipur does not have too many tea estates. The best-known one is Nillai Tea Estate located near Talui, the second largest town of the district. The gardens primarily produce green tea which is very popular. Ukhrul is a major tourist destination anyway with other attractions such as treks, caves, and cultural tours. So, this tea estate can be combined in such tours.

Tea Tourism in Nagaland

Nagaland does not have too many tea estates but there are some in the areas bordering Assam, especially Mon district bordering Sivasagar. These are still early days but some of tea retreats are coming up. You can combine it with the usual exploration of Mon and Longwa.

Tea Tourism in Meghalaya

There are a few tea estates in Meghalaya, mostly in East Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi districts, i.e. not far from Shillong. The most touristy one is called Mawlyngot, which is around 45 KMs from Shillong. You can find homestays in the village. The good thing is that this is a very touristy region anyway. SO, you can combine it with other visits to Shillong and Laitlum easily.

Tea Tourism in Tripura

Tripura has several te estates and some of them also have tourist lodges. The most famous one is the Durga Bari Tea Estate near Agartala. You can combine this with other visits to historical places in Tripura. It is a small state anyway, so you can combine with visits to Agartala, Melaghar, as well as Unakoti.

Tea Tourism in Mizoram

Mizoram does have a few tea estates but has not yet ventured into the tourism aspect. I will update this space if I find something.

Darjeeling and Dooars

The Darjeeling & Dooars region of North Bengal is famous for tea estates and they are well developed for tourism too. Nevertheless, these are officially not part of NE and so I am not getting into too many details.

Guwahati Tea Auction Center

Also noteworthy is the Guwahati Tea Auction Center, which is one of the most important tea auction centers in the world. Located in Dispur Guwahati, earlier it just used to be a center for trade and tourists rarely visited it. However, it has recently opened a tea lounge where you can enjoy some of the premium teas of the region if you have some free time in the city.

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