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Tea estates in Sikkim
Temi Tea Garden is all about misty mornings, walks through jade green terraces and, of course, imbibing your favourite brew.
Sikkim may be known for the lofty heights of its mountain ranges and the spiritual highs of its Buddhist temples, but those in the know set aside time for sipping a hot beverage at Temi Tea Garden, the state’s only tea producing area. Set in Ravangla, a two-hour drive southwest from the big smoke of Gangtok, Temi Tea Garden is not just a plantation; it’s a visual a stunner all year round. The almost 450 acres of brilliant greenery is lined with tall, elegant trees and the views are suitably magnificent – even the cloud and fog only serve to add a touch of magic to the landscape. And once you get down to sampling the produce you’re in for a treat; it’s said by many to be superior to that of neighbouring Darjeeling.
The land where Temi Tea Garden sits was a Sherpa village and then a home for Scottish missionaries before the Government of Sikkim bought it back from the British in 1954. Unlike the tea estates in Darjeeling, most of which were developed by British planters for their own benefit, the Temi Tea Garden was set up by the local government as a means of providing employment for Tibetan refugees, who had left their home country following Chinese occupation.
The last chogyal (king) of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal, set up the tea estate in 1969, and took on hundreds of Tibetans to work there. The estate was named Temi and it continued to thrive after Sikkim became a part of India in 1975. Temi’s produce was initially sold with the Darjeeling tea logo but in 2000 it was rebranded – and is now sold around the world as Temi Sikkim.
What is Temi Sikkim tea like?
Temi started mass producing its teas in 1977 and is known in particular for its black teas, but also produces green and white teas, among other varieties. The original tea saplings were brought from Darjeeling, and the teas produced are very similar in taste: light, flowery and delicate, though with a stronger note of honey. All of the teas are produced without pesticides or industrial fertilisers and are certified 100 percent organic.
What can I see there?
On most visits to the Temi Tea Garden, you’ll be able to walk around the estate and see some of the tea pickers at work. Depending how busy they are, you should be able to take a factory tour, though not between June and August, nor during processing rushes. If you do get the chance to tour the factory, you’ll see where the teas are withered, rolled, dried, sorted and packaged. Either way, there’ll be time to stop at the onsite café, where you can sample the wares. If you’re inclined to stay the night, there’s an old British plantation bungalow for rent, a government run resort and several local homestays in the vicinity.
When to go
March to May and November are considered to be the best time to visit Temi Tea Estate. The weather is mild, the skies are generally clear and the whole place is in bloom, either with rich fields of orchids and rhododendrons (March and April) or cherry blossom trees (November).
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Other tea estates
Most of our Sikkim tours pass through Darjeeling in neighbouring West Bengal State, an area that has achieved worldwide fame for its delicate tea blends. Tea was introduced to this Himalayan city in the mid-19th century by the British and today there are some 80 working tea gardens spanning thousands of acres. As well as offering tours and tastings, many also maintain old British planters’ residences, where you can stay the night and soak up the old world atmosphere.
Worth noting are the Makaibari Tea Estate, one of the oldest tea gardens in the area (set up in 1859) and the producer of Darjeeling’s most expensive tea; and Glenburn Estate, which was established by Scottish tea planters in 1860 and covers a vast 650 hectares of lush woodland, hills and valleys.