Rain and Tea: A Stay at Makaibari Tea Estate This Monsoon

‘Rain and tea’ is a loved combination. The smell of the wet earth and the smell of brewing tea during rain, together conjure a concoction of nostalgia. I could even keep adding to the combination. Rain, tea, fritters as snacks and a book. This monsoon I enjoyed the rain and tea combination amidst a tea estate which is India’s first tea estate, established in 1852. Our stay at Makaibari Tea Estate in Kurseong near Darjeeling, was mesmerising. At an elevation of 4900 feet, surrounded by Himalayan mountains stands the tea estate, spread across 1700 acres with 300 acres of tea plantation and the rest is forest area. The estate supports workers from 7 villages. We stayed at the beautiful Taj Chia Kutir, a sprawling property situated inside the Makaibari Tea Estate. We had a remarkable monsoon experience in the hills, amidst tea plantations and the resort added to the experience.

Looking Back in Time

Makaibari Tea Estate, founded by Captain Samler, an agent of Darjeeling Tea Company, sold it to Mr. Girish Chandra Banerjee, in 1952. Except for that brief period of ownership, this plantation had no British connections and had throughout been with the Banerjee family unlike most other tea estates of this region. Makaibari Tea is a known name, popular by the name of the estate, unlike most other tea brands which are named after their marketers. The factory was built in 1859 and is the world’s oldest organised factory from where tea trading was done. Swaraj Kumar Banerjee, more popularly known as Raja Banerjee, the fourth generation planter and researcher, is a mentionable name associated with this estate as he brought in methods which were win-win for both owners and labourers. Our stay at Makaibari Tea Estate was an experience of heritage and history besides indulging in nature and luxury.

Things to do during a stay at Makaibari Tea Estate

Definitely one must do the factory visit and try out the Makaibari Tea which is world famous. Queen Elizabeth has had tea from this estate. A stay at Makaibari Tea Estate means basking in nature. One has the option of staying like locals in home stays and enjoying home cooked local meals with organic ingredients. The touch of simplicity in this case is healing. While our stay at Taj Chia Kutir was luxury weaved with nature’s bliss. At Makaibari Tea Estate one can enjoy the gourmet treats at the fine dining restaurants and bars of Chia Kutir. For us it was a boon to have enjoyed all this and from the room and the balcony, we enjoyed rain and tea with an awesome view of the misty mountains, tea gardens and black clouds. The greens became so alive, so much greener during rains.

A Guided Tour of Makaibari Factory

A guided tour to the iconic Makaibari tea factory comes with a stay at Makaibari Tea Estate. It is educational and intriguing as it shows the steps involved in the complex process of making the crux of the simple brew which we have every morning. The tea testing session was soul soothing. This trip to the tea factory entails one to a lot of stories from the pages of colonial history. Well, the history of tea is much older than that. The factory is 500 metres from the entrance of Taj Chia Kutir. As we were enjoying rain and tea at ‘Chia Verandah’, an open verandah (Fine Dining Restaurant) we saw tea pluckers walk through the road which passes by the hotel, with tea plucking basket hung from their head on to their back. They walked with umbrellas and boots. It was a pleasant sight giving us an understanding of their hard work. Yet they had smile on their faces.

Enjoying Rain and Tea inside a Tea Estate

We stepped out of the room into the magic of nature- as if time didn’t exceed as we saw the floating clouds kiss the lush green rolling hills. The chirping of birds and pitter-patter of rain together made nature’s best symphony. We walked on the wet slithering roads through the tea gardens- there’s lots of green around and also carpet of green grass and dry leaves to step on to. The vivid Hydrangea flowers and the colourful prayer flags deserve a mention together with the rainbow we saw in the sky. While it poured heavily we sat indoors and relaxed inside our room, drinking Darjeeling tea. I also sat at times with a book on the numerous balconies and lounges with glass walls at the resort. Books, rain and tea turned into an emotion during our stay at Makaibari Tea Estate this monsoon.

Love for Monsoon:

I lose count of how many poems and songs have been written, composed and sung, themed around rain and monsoon? Besides the natural sound of rain, the Malhar Raga and other music of rain work wonder. I also love painting of rain and my stay at Makaibari Tea Estate was inspired me to do so. Chia Kutir has amazing art collection. Monsoon is a season to romanticise, to awaken the poet and artist in us. My love for rain and tea gained a new height this monsoon.        

Dipannita Bhattacherya

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