Indians love a good cup of tea (chai) and India is one of the largest tea growers in the world. However, over 70% of it is consumed by Indians themselves. The production of tea really took off during the days of British rule in India, when large tracts of land were converted for mass tea production. If you're a tea lover, don't miss visiting these places where you'll find the best India tea plantations and tea. You can even stay on a tea estate and tour the tea factories.
01 of 06
Darjeeling, West Bengal
Darjeeling, as well as being one of India's most popular hill stations, is surrounded by tea plantations that produce prized light colored, floral smelling tea. Around 25% of India's total tea output comes from Darjeeling.
- Where to Go: The Happy Valley Tea Estate is located just north of town. The estate grows some of the finest tea in Darjeeling, and has a long history. It was established by an Englishman in 1854, and later taken over by an Indian aristocrat from Kolkata. At 2,750 meters above sea level, it's one of the highest tea gardens in the world. It's open Tuesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stay at the boutique Glenburn Tea Estate for an unforgettable gastronomical experience.
- When to Go: March to November for tea plucking, but the monsoon season from June to September is best avoided.
02 of 06
Assam, Northeast India
Assam, located in India's remote north east, is the largest tea producing region in the country. Mostly grown in the Brahmaputra Valley, malty Assamese tea is brightly colored. Jorhat, in the central part of the valley, is often referred to as the "Tea Capital of the World".
- Where to Go: Stay at Banyan Grove on Gatoonga Tea Estate, near Jorhat. Built more than 100 years ago, it has colonial style and seven guest rooms. You'll be able to get a feel for what it's like to live on a tea estate, as well as visit the factory and see how tea is made. Alternatively, Wild Mahseer offers newly refurbished historic tea planter bungalows on the banks of the Brahmaputra River amidst Addabarie Tea Estate, near Tezpur in Assam.
- Take a Tour: The Greener Pastures offers a five night Aromas of Tea tour, to Dibrugarh and Jorhat.
- When to Go: Mid May to June end, for the best tea. Tea production continues until early December, but the quality of the tea steadily decreases. A Tea... Festival is held in Jorhat every November.
03 of 06
As you enter Munnar, a popular hill station in Kerala, you'll be greeted by miles upon miles of lush tea plantations. Once owned by Tata, the largest tea manufacturing company in India, they've now been sold to employees.
- Where to Go: Head to India's first Tea Museum at Nallathanni Estate to take a fascinating look at the history of tea production in Munnar. It's open daily, except Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cost is 125 rupees for adults. Visit Kolukkumalai Estate Tea Factory, at what is perhaps the highest tea estate in the world. Accommodations are also available for those who want to spend a longer time there. Stay at The Tea Harvester, a peaceful new boutique resort surrounded by tea plantations. Tea estate tours are offered. Dream Catcher Plantation Resort (with four stunning tree houses nestled into the tea plantations) and Gruenberg Tea Plantation Haus are also recommended.
- When to Go: The tourist season is from August to May, although winters are very... cold during December and January.
04 of 06
Nilgiri Mountains, Tamil Nadu
The mountainous Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu, in south India, is known for its distinctive dark and intensely aromatic tea. Tea has been grown there for more than 100 years, and is the most important industry in the region.
Continue to 5 of 6 below.
- Where to Go: Coonoor is an excellent place to discover Nilgiri tea. Start at the Highfield Tea Factory, near Sim's Park (or if you wish, Homedale is a much quieter option). From there, stop by the Tranquilitea Tea Lounge to try some exotic teas. They also offer plantation tours and accommodations in plantation bungalows. Otherwise, stay in Coonoor at the delightful Tea Nest on Singara Tea Estate. Go there on the renowned Nilgiri Mountain Railway toy train. If you really want to get away from it all, O'land Plantation Stay is recommended. It's about 45 minutes south of Coonoor.
- Take a Tour: Breakaway offers this Blue Mountains and High Tea trip from Coimbatore to Coonoor and back. Your host, a tea planter, will share his knowledge with you. You'll... also get to visit a farm stay that makes cheese.
- When to Go: Tea is produced throughout the year in Nilgiri. However the best teas are produced during the cooler winter months (late November to mid February).
05 of 06
Wayanad, a lush mountainous agricultural area of Kerala, also produces a significant amount of tea (in addition to coffee and spices). Most of the tea plantations are located south of Kalpetta. The road to Chembra Peak will take you though a private estate, which is worth a look.
- Where to Go: Visit and stay at Parisons Plantation Experiences. This serene property has two luxuriously remodeled bungalows with a total of 10 bedrooms, situated on a 4,025 acre tea estate with a 200 year old history. Activities include tea tours, visits to tea factories, trekking on various tea trails, and afternoons at the Planters Club. Priyadarshini Tea Estate is a community tourism initiative that provides employment for around 400 rehabilitated tribals. The estate has its own tea factory, tea museum, accommodations, and activities for tourists. Wayanad Tea Drops has a two bedroom cottage on sprawling Chellotte Estate in Wayanad. It's ideal for families and friends.
- When to Go: September through to... April, to avoid the monsoon rain.
06 of 06
Palampur, Himachal Pradesh
Tea was introduced to Palampur, about an hour from Dharamsala in the Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh, in the mid 19th century by the Superintendent of Botanical Gardens in Peshawar, Doctor Jameson.
- Where to Go: Palampur Cooperative Tea Factory welcomes visitors and offers offers factory tours. Wah Tea Estate is the largest working tea estate in the Kangra Valley. It's been in business since 1857 and survived the earthquake in 1905, which seriously disrupted tea cultivation in the area. The tea produced there is organic and 100% pesticide free. Stay at The Lodge at Wah, a new eco-friendly boutique homestay on the property. It has eight rooms in three gorgeous, rustic cottages. Tea plantation and factory tours, and tea tastings, are provided to guests. Other recommended options on tea estates in Palampur are Country Cottage Tea Garden Resort and Norwood Green.
- When to Go: March to June and mid September to November, for the best weather. Tea is plucked between April and October.