I visited Darjeeling last week to explore one of the most alluring tea estates, Glenburn Tea Estates. I had read a lot about the estate and wanted to explore them on my own. A heavenly little plantation retreat Glenburn lies on a hillock above the banks of the River Rungeet, high in the Himalayas, overlooked by the mighty Kanchenjunga mountain range.
As we were on the way to Glenburn, my excited heart was beating fast. The moment I reached there, I could feel sheer emptiness throughout my being. I had forgotten where I came from. The place literally showed me what it would look like when heaven meets earth to have a cup of tea 🙂
The warm, welcoming staff helped me unload my baggage and I headed to meet the man I had been waiting to meet – Mr. Parashar. He has been a tea connoisseur, regular visitor of Glenburn and a dear friend’s uncle who agreed to help me explore the tea estate with him. “Glenburn is not just a place to explore, it is an experience worth carrying in your heart forever”, said uncle Parashar when I met him.
While we sipped our first cup of Darjeeling tea together, we discussed our plan for the next two days. He had so much to share that I penned down all the details I could grab from him in my journal right from the moment I met him. Once he began, there was nothing that could stop him from talking about Glenburn. I tried my best to keep writing my journal as he spoke and here, I share with you all, what makes Glenburn your next must visit place.
Knowing about Glenburn tea estate
Glenburn was started by a Scottish tea company in 1859, then passed into the hands of Prakashes who have been one of India’s pioneering tea-planting families. They have also come to be known as the ‘Chaiwala family’ – which literally means ‘tea planters’.
The Prakash family now carry almost a century of tea knowledge in their inheritance, and open their hearts to share the experience of their legacy at Glenburn. However, the inspiration for having a “tea estate” in India was drawn from the vineyards of Europe and other parts of the world. The idea is to provide the visitors a thorough knowledge about the journey of a tea leaf from its plantation to one’s home.
When Husna-tara Prakash visited Glenburn, she was positive that this is where she will be opening a tea-estate for the future generations. Glenburn is one of the few destinations in India where you can walk all day and return to luxury at night.
As Parashar uncle and I devoured some hot tea-leaf pakoras, he described why were they different from the regular pakoras we get in the city. At Glenburn, fresh herbs, spices fruits and vegetables are also grown apart from tea. As a result, you fill your stomachs with mouth watering, unique dishes cooked using local ingredients. Their menu boasts of most interesting local fare dishes to most exquisite South-East Asian delicacies along with a variety of European dishes.
Living in Glenburn
We discussed about Glenburn’s beauty and food all evening and retired to meet the next day early morning. Usually I am awoken with the sound of alarm clock but that morning I was awoken with beautiful birds chirping, while sun was yet to rise! As we walked through the estates, uncle Parashar gave out details of Glenburn’s accommodation.
Glenburn offers a unique holiday, rejuvenation cum tea-estate experience with 1000 acres of private forest, and two rivers running through the estate. The accommodation is provided in bungalows named The Burra bungalows and Water Lily bungalows.
The Burra Bungalows are home to generations of planters and remain the focal point of Glenburn hospitality, with its sweeping main Verandah, cozy Living Room with fireplace and library. The grand dining room with candle-lit sit-down arrangement is where families love spending their evenings. The four bedrooms are charmingly decorated, each following a different theme, and are comfortable, spacious yet cosy. Some rooms open to Verandah where you can sit with a cup of tea and enjoy the mesmerising scenery.
The Water Lily Bungalows, with four more suites and a stunning location on the edge of the Glenburn spur comprise of a Living Room, small Dining Room, two verandahs and garden areas laid out on two levels, and connected to The Burra Bungalow by a stone staircase. It also houses a large recreation and meeting room, as well as our Massage and Steam Room. All the bedrooms have direct views of the mountains, private balconies, bay windows/or sit-outs.
Relaxing at Glenburn
As we walked back, we were served with local breakfast and masala chai. I headed to my room in the Burra Bungalows and decided to relax for a while. As there weren’t many guests around that day and because uncle Parashar was a dear visitor of Glenburn, I got a chance to sneak into both the bungalows. I got to experience how would it be like to live in each bungalow and how they differentiate from each other.
I spent a warm (not hot) afternoon post lunch writing down my journal as I enjoyed the breathtaking scenery that Glenburn is famous for. This surely is a place of inspiration for artists, writers and photographers. The diverse landscape, birds, butterflies and local populace provided me with a subject to capture in words.
Needless to say, Glenburn is also an ideal getaway for anyone seeking refuge from their busy city lives. The stillness that the estates provide is perfect for yoga, meditation or simply rejuvenating by doing nothing. Of all the activities that the estate offers, my most preferred was to just sit back on the verandah with a book in hand and a cup of tea!
After discovering the estates and relaxing myself it was now time to head and explore the tea plantations which we decided to go to the next day.
Exploring the Tea plantations
You can enjoy learning the process of growing tea either in a few hours or if you are a tea crazy person, you might want to spend a whole day understanding each and every step thoroughly.
Uncle Parashar and I walked down hill for around 3 hours without even realizing it. There were local passersby along with some visitors who were driving the entire route down.
After reaching the tea estates, we watched an audio-visual presentation on the history of Glenburn, and a brief overview of how tea is grown, manufactured and tasted. We then headed to the Tea Factory where we were taken on a guided tour to see how the leaf is brought in from the fields, weighed, and then taken through the processes of withering, rolling, fermenting, drying and sorting.
The factory tour ended with a tea tasting session with a range of black, green, oolong and white teas, and we were taught to discover the differences in aroma, flavour and appearance of tea manufactured in different ways and at during different times of the year.
We walked the tea fields with one of the guides, who gave us an insight into how the tea bush is grown and looked after. We also interacted with the Glenburn tea picker ladies and learned how to pluck the “two leaves and a bud” that is later manufactured into the tea that ends up in your teacup. While we were plucking tea leaves, we enjoyed the sight of a variety of bird life, butterflies and flora. We later also enjoyed a variety of refreshments mid-way.
We had our lunch on the sandy banks of the River Rung Dung, which is accessed through a thick bamboo forest followed by relaxing nap on the riverfront. By the time we were back at the bungalow, it was late evening. We had our dinner and retired to sleep early.
Until I visit again..
The next morning, I was scheduled to head back to the city. I was rejuvenated and ready for life, yet again. Though I missed, there are many other things that one can do if they plan to stay at Glenburn for more than two days. There’s a day’s trip around Darjeeling town and Kailimpong,
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