Out of all the heavenly abodes in India, Darjeeling is one of the most exquisite places this nation has to offer. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Darjeeling is the Mecca of tea producing regions. With its tantalising aroma and captivating flavour, a cup of Darjeeling tea is just irresistible. Furthermore, dotted with colonial bungalows and unending green pastures of local flora and fauna, Darjeeling tea gardens are some of the most scenic sites for tourists.
An integral part of the local tourism, Darjeeling tea gardens are thriving. These estates are known for not only producing the finest teas in the world but also a fantastic experience that one can never forget.
Now, while it is very difficult to go about visiting every tea estate, we’re here to make it a little easier for you. Here’s our list of 5 of the most charming and beautiful Darjeeling tea gardens that one must visit at least once in their life.
Top 5 Darjeeling Tea Gardens
1. Puttabong Tea Estate
One of the largest Darjeeling tea gardens, Puttabong tea estate is a magnificent garden overlooking the scenic snow-capped Kanchenjunga mountain. Located at an altitude between 1500-6500 ft, it’s also known to be the first tea estate in Darjeeling’s complex tea history. Plus, it’s also the first tea estate to employ the use of mechanic pruning machines and commercial trading of tea. This garden is planted with Darjeeling Clonal, Chinary bushes and Clonal tea stock that are especially developed to meet the agro-climatic conditions of the area. What differentiates this estate from the rest is the sustainable production in the garden. It has a huge plant for Vermicompost, cattle farming and a production centre for liquid fertilizers made with local herbs. Famous for its light muscatels, handmade blends and silver tippy teas, this tea estate is a true delight for any tea enthusiast.
2. Glenburn Tea Estate
A heavenly little plantation located on the hillock above the banks of river Rungeet, the Glenburn tea estate was started by the Scottish in 1859. Later, its reigns were handed over to a pioneering tea family- the Prakashes. For visitors, the tea estate is nothing less than visiting a European vineyard. The hosts of the tea estate believe in providing an all-round sensory experience to visitors. So, you not only get to relish the flavourful tea in the bed of nature but also enjoy a stay at one of their luxurious bungalows. This is accompanied with informative historical tours, delicious food and calming walks in the estate. Moreover, visitors get to witness the entire tea processing procedure, to better understand how the fine tea leaves create the most impeccable tasting cup. The Glenburn estate is known for producing some of the finest black and green Darjeeling teas, which are naturally fragrant with flowery scents and malty aftertaste.
3. Makaibari Tea Estate
Home to some of the finest tea leaves in the world, the Makaibari tea estate is the definition of a model organic Darjeeling tea garden. The tea estate has been tended by over four generations of the Banerjee family since its formation in 1859 by G.C. Banerjee. It is also known to house the first tea factory in the world. Apart from its organically grown teas, Makaibari tea estate is known for its values of creating a sustainable environment. The managing family has dedicated their lives to the preservation and improvement of the soil and improving the livelihood of the people who work there. It is the only tea garden where organic Camellia Sinensis grows in harmony with the primary sub-tropical rainforests. This is due to the estate’s biodynamic/permaculture practices. If you’re an organic tea lover and a believer in sustainable development practices, then visit this Darjeeling tea garden and try out their famous Organic Pearl White tea.
4. Gopaldhara Tea Estate
Established in 1955, the Gopaldhara tea estate is the pinnacle of the finest Darjeeling teas. This Darjeeling tea garden not only produces but also markets and distributes its premium and fine quality teas. This garden is spread across a land area of 320 hectares, with 172 hectares already planted with high-quality tea bushes. Gopaldhara tea estate is also known for producing high-quality, handcrafted teas like Pearl Tea, Stupa, Olympic Flame, Silver Needles etc. The estate is located in the heart of the Mirik Valley, and is one of the highest tea estates, setting between an elevation of 5500ft-7000ft. This Darjeeling tea garden is a must-visit for those who enjoy innovation in tea production. They’re most sought after for their first and second flush teas, with their finest first flush being the Maharani of Darjeeling.
5. Okayti Tea Estate
The Okayti tea estate was established in the 1870s and is also credited for one of the oldest tea producing factories of the region. Also known as the Rangdoo tea estate, it is located in the Mirik valley. On the northeast, this estate is flanked by the Gopaldhara tea estate and on the east by the Thurbo estate. It is about 648 hectares large with approximately 209 hectares of planted land, making it one of the largest tea estates of the Mirik valley. The Okayti estate is a sight for sore eyes for it houses a forest flourishing with local flora and fauna that sit next to the undulated flow of the Mechi river along the Indo-Nepal border. The tea bushes are grown at an altitude of 4000-6800 ft. The Okayti teas are known for their perfect balance of astringency and well-rounded body, with a taste that has hints of dried fruit and nuts. This Darjeeling tea garden is well-known for the orthodox black teas (1st & 2nd flush), speciality green tea and white teas.
The charm of enjoying an authentic cup of Darjeeling tea in a Darjeeling tea garden while relishing the view of the snowy Kanchenjunga is something else in itself. We are the consumers of almost 70% of the tea produced in India. Therefore, visiting the sprawling green valleys of Darjeeling is a must for every tea lover. The beautiful hill station is not just about Darjeeling tea, but also boasts a rich local culture, enormous monuments, historical sights and pretty little markets. Your travel to the hill station will be one satisfying trip to enjoy. So, book your tickets, grab your essentials and head to these aromatic hills for a once in a lifetime experience.