Kolkata: Tea producers in the North East, backed by the government, are aggressively venturing into tea tourism projects. Tea tourism has become a rage these days.
Lured by the irresistible charm of the perfumed mist and eucalyptus-scented air permeating above the sweeping acres of manicured tea plantations, tourists have found solace in its environs for decades.
Tea belt in northeastern India starts from Darjeeling, Dooars and Terai, and stretches to Assam and beyond. The Dooars region, blessed with rich tropical forests interspersed with a number of hill brooks amidst great expanse of tea plantations, snuggles in the foothills of Himalayas. With tea production pegged at 220 million kilograms with tea gardens spanning an area of 97,280 ha, the economy of Dooars hinges on tea and tourism, besides timber.
Darjeeling, a premier holiday destination in the region, is yet another place where tea cultivation is part and parcel of life. Darjeeling tea is considered an exclusive tea all over the world. Darjeeling embraces tea cultivation area of 17,820 hectares.
Assam tea is also quite famous. A key state in east India, Assam produces 507 million kg of tea grown in 3,12, 210 hectares of area. Little wonder that tea tourism has become a rage these days in the northeastern region of India.
Though South India too has its small share in tea tourism, it is the North East belt that has initiated efforts to promote tea tourism. Tea tourism is defined as 'tourism that is motivated by an interest in the history, culture, traditions and consumption of tea.'
A tea garden is by itself a visual treat for the eyes. Its picturesque settings, coupled with knowing the process of tea cultivation right from plucking of the leaves to the finished product including packaging, are reasons enough for visitors to savour the experience. In addition, the cultural festivals of the tea tribes, staying in the comfort of old-style tea bungalows provides for a unique experience.
Owners of tea estates and the tourism authorities in the region are planning to develop more facilities and infrastructure in tea plantations in order to lure more tourists. These can also help generate more employment and bring in additional revenue to the local people. The government of West Bengal and some eastern states are working on exciting plans on this front.
The North Eastern Council and the West Bengal government have prepared an integrated ten-year master plan for the region. The plan envisages reviewing the existing facilities and developing more infrastructure. The plan was prepared with tourism infrastructure and resource analysis leading to formulation of tourism strategy and tourist circuit.
The plan will include the over-all experience of tourists in the midst of a tea garden or estate, staying in a heritage bungalow, at a homestay in a tea village or at a modern resort.
Tea garden trekking
Trekking in the natural environment of a lush tea plantation, undertaking a tea tasting session, visiting a modern tea factory and even trying one's hand at plucking tea leaves are all ideas of tea tourism. The government will allow individual tea gardens to exploit tourism potential.
Tea growers are now in the process of registering their names and have submitted particulars pertaining to them and their tea gardens.
So, get set to experience the entire process of tea manufacture — from plucking tea leaves, drying, processing in the factory to packaging, all in the form of a holiday.
AFTAB H. KOLA - Our Correspondent