Tea reminds us of things we seek – tranquility, warmth, vigour, and the distant hills which produce them. In the comfort of our home, we enjoy tea as a beverage that possibly brings us nostalgia of the good old days, but it’s a whole new experience to step out of that comfort zone and engage more deeply with all our senses, out in the lush tea gardens.
Tea tourism can alter the tea-drinking experience entirely by helping us understand the origins, processing, and terroir of tea in an intellectual manner. It can engage sensorially – we can touch the dew-kissed tea leaves and smell the earthiness of the land in which it grows.
Sometimes to taste the best tea, you might need to set out on an adventure!
Decoding the challenges
Tea tourism in India is still a nascent industry. Given the British colonial history and its own rich legacy, India has immense potential to offer a well-rounded tea-tasting and tea tourism experience. However, it is not well promoted as it lacks proper structure and policy.
Blessed with cultural abundance and scenic beauty, India can garner tourists from around the globe just as France and Switzerland attract tourists for their wine and cheese tasting. We have tea estates in culturally rich Assam in the North East, the lush hills of Darjeeling and Dooars in West Bengal, and the rolling gardens of Munnar, Kerala.
With the essentials in check, all we need are attractive and affordable tourism packages that can put India back on the map.
With the government allowing tea garden owners to use a part of their unused land for the purpose of construction and promotion of tea tourism, there is also a growing need to educate tea estate owners, tourist guides, and tourism companies on the benefits of tea tourism.
The lack of funds and investments by private and government organisations also restricts the development of tea tourism. If the government can take active steps to promote tea tourism and include it in mainstream packages, India has the potential to become one of the most popular attractions, given that it is globally loved for its tea!
Tea tourism can create opportunities not just to promote our heritage, tradition, and culture, but provide employment to local communities and improve their livelihood. Tourism is an important driver of economic prosperity as well as growth and can open up jobs to unskilled, semi-skilled, and highly skilled labour.
The dense greenery in the tea hills, the abundance of water bodies, and the presence of captivating caves and rivers widens up opportunities.
By integrating tea plucking, education of tea labour culture, cultural festivities, and nature adventures, tea tourism can be made one of the sought-after recreational experiences for tourists in India.
Tea estate heritage bungalows are often well-preserved to keep the essence of the century-old culture alive. One can travel back in time to the Colonial era and enjoy simple living surrounded by lush green nature and fresh air.
The way forward
Given the ample opportunities to create unique tea-tasting experiences for tourists, there is a need for the government to make strategic long-term and short-term policies. It must ensure proper funding opportunities to promote tea tourism in India while making sure that the natural charm of these less-explored regions of India does not get lost.
Tea tourism has the potential to offer one-of-a-kind experiences such as trekking through picturesque trails, horseback riding, river rafting, tea estate visits, tea tasting, learning about tea making and processing, enjoying authentic tea and more.
Not to forget clicking Instagram-worthy pictures and possibly taking a photo or two with locals and tea harvesters. The experience can be levelled up by checking into a colonial or heritage bungalow, surrounded by lush green tea bushes and incredible vistas.
The pandemic has led people to search for more isolated and secluded spots, which has slowly resulted in more and more people being interested in these beautifully preserved estates. This accounts for the rise in Indian tourists visiting tea estates, which were predominantly popular with foreigners.
Who wouldn’t love the enthralling experience of learning the old-fashioned way to fry and roll tea leaves, inhale the aroma that surrounds you, and sip tea that is possibly the freshest it can get? Every tea enthusiast deserves this experience!
Edited by Teja Lele Desai
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)