There is no better place to relish a cup of your choice of beverage than at the land that the leaves or berries were plucked from, dotting hillsides that the winds sing to. Several States of India have a plethora of stays within coffee, tea or spice plantations – from colonial estates that have been refurbished into luxury resorts to the actual residences of the planters who have opened up their homes to travellers. Here is a list of options for you to holiday and mimic the laidback life of a planter.
The Serai, Chikmagalur, Karnataka
Image Credit: theserai.in
When Baba Budan, a few centuries ago, brought home, in the folds of his robe, a handful of coffee beans from Mocha in Yemen, and planted them in the hills around Chikmagalur, little did he imagine the kind of luxury that would brew in the foothills of the mountains where he made his abode in a cave. When one thinks of hill stations, in India, those are restricted to the Himalayan towns and cities in the North and only Ooty in the South. A holiday at The Serai will enlighten you enough to know better. Just about 250kms from Bengaluru, the lushness of nature and luxury at The Serai will make you forget that you ever had any stresses. Whilst the Turkish interpretation of Serai is ‘a palace of the Sultan’, the Persian version means a comfortable, accommodative place where intrepid travellers and battle-weary soldiers rested and recuperated from their rigours and travels across inhospitable terrain. The Serai Chikmagalur is the perfect blend of both these definitions! A luxury oasis of peace and tranquility that refreshes the mind and body; a well deserved respite from modern day travails, trials and tribulations. Whether you are enjoying the coffee that grows on plantations around this luxury property, soaking in your own private pool in your own villa (there are no rooms here!), walking around the plantations or soaking in (literally) the goodness of coffee at the Oma Spa (that has most of its therapies based on coffee), there is lots to do – at your own pace.If you do feel like venturing out of your coffee haven, Mullayangiri Peak, the highest point in Karnataka (at 1926 meters above sea level), is a 40-minute drive is an excursion the concierge at The Serai will be happy to organise for you.
Windermere Estates, Munnar, Kerala
Image Credit: Pexels
Munnar is one of the biggest addas of tea cultivation and trade in India. Until the early 19th century, Munnar and the surrounding area were dense forests. In 1870, a subordinate of the ruler of Travancore, leased 588 sq. km of land to a Scottish tea planter named J.D. Munro, who was the lawyer in the employee of the Travancore Government. The landscape of Munnar changed for good in 1886, when A H Sharp planted the first tea sapling in Parvathy Estate. Since then, the world in general seems to be enchanted by the brews of the leaves grown in this quaint hill station in Kerala.
Currently, there are more than half a century tea estates in Munnar – most of whom have been take over by Tata Tea. While there are a plethora of tea estates to choose your holiday abode from, Windermere surely stands out because this is where the manicured tea gardens will make you wonder exactly what shades of green do you see. At about 110 kms from Kochi International Airport, Windermere is a piece of heaven in God’s own country.
At nearly 4000 feet above sea level, the residences provide the visitors with spectacular views of the surrounding hills and offer them the opportunity to capture the essence a tea planter’s life. The green carpet of the tea plantations, the chirping of birds and the cascading waterfalls is the closest one can come to nirvana amidst nature. One doesn’t care much for things to do when curled up by the fireplace with a good read, but for those who like to be up and about, Tea walks, cardamom walks and mountain treks give an outdoor enthusiast quality time to bond with herself and nature. A picnic at the Attukadu waterfalls is a must-experience. There are bird-watching activities and jeep safaris too. The famed Tea Museum is close to Windermere estate too. Set up at the Nallathanni Estate of Tata Tea, the Tea Museum is an ode to the toils and rigours of its pioneers, who showed utmost determination and were resolute in their efforts to transform Munnar into a major plantation centre of Kerala. It houses curious, photographs and machineries, each depicting a turning point that contributed to a flourishing tea industry, as seen today in the region.
Tenerife Hill, Coonoor, Tamil Nadu
Image Credit: tranquilitea.in
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.” Indubitably, your chai-blunted taste buds are in for something special and tranquil at Tenerife Hill – a gorgeous home-stay right on top of a hill in Coonoor, 300 kms from Bengaluru (though the nearest airport is Coimbatore – about 100kms) . Ideal for those looking for privacy and an intimate getaway, it has only two furnished rooms, surrounded by a landscaped garden that compliments the picturesque tea estates all around. It is managed by a family-run venture called Tranquilitea, and tea is central to the holidaying experience. Little mason jars of tea leaves and books about tea from all over the world find pride of place on wooden sideboards, glass tables and shelves here.
At Tranquilitea, thanks to Sandeep Subramani, you see Coonoor like nowhere else. Sandeep ensures every one of his guests has a perfectly lovely time, suggesting places to see and things to do. Guests can take a leisurely tour of the tea estate and attend a tea tasting session – aptly called ‘Cups that Cheer’ – at the tea lounge. Rounds of golf with the affable owner are not ruled out too, who also guides the tea tasting sessions accompanied by local snacks. Other activities include treks, forest walks, and a visit to the nearby village. Fresh, home-cooked fare is served in the rooms, and local Badaga cuisine is available on request. The Badagas, a warrior community that shares its lineage with the Kodagas of Coorg, sought refuge in the Nilgiris during the reign of Tipu Sultan. I just couldn’t have enough of the soppu (a tasty curry made of local greens), batthal (yummy sun-dried potato wafers) and ottukudi (the incomparable tender bamboo shoots)
Mancotta Tea Estate, Dibrugarh, Assam
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No one can talk of tea without talking of the variety that grows in Assam. And the most beautiful views of the lush gardens are at Mancotta Tea Estate in Dibrugarh – the upper part of Assam. Wake up to the call of birds or the collective songs of the women that pluck the leaves in the estate. Enjoy a hearty open-air breakfast and set out for long walks in the tea gardens where you can spot stunning views of nature. If you are lucky, you may also spot the gorgeously plumed birds and plethora of butterflies. Speaking of stay, the Mancotta Heritage Chang Bungalow, a 150-year old colonial building, that owes its existence to the British tea planters is a charming option where you are pampered in style.
Aanavilasam Luxury Plantation, Thekkady, Kerala
Image Credit: aanavilasam.com
Every story has its own spice. And that holds true for the spices that make your meal palatable. Fortunately, spice plantations in south India are a treasure trove of many such stories. Seven acres of private estate that allow plantation tours, bird watching, cookery demonstrations, pampering spa sessions, boat cruises in Periyar Lake, excursions to Mularperiyar Dam, bamboo-rafting, jungle patrols and tiger trails – Aanavilasam Luxury Plantation is bound to make you rich in tales – spicy and vibrant. Surrounded by pristine cardamom and pepper plantations, the estate, owned by Salim Pushpanath, this property is luxuriously appointed and yet not overbearingly so. Aanavilasam Luxury Plantation House is an ideal place for a plantation stay as well as to see how the spices are grown, harvested and processed. A small, friendly village, where one can see and visit typical Kerala-style homes, is within walking distance. Aanavilasam is a small and cozy place with four accommodations: two Suites and two Private Pool Villas – and therefore the personalised attention adds to the experience.Open air dining and fireplace add to the adventurous feel when in the silence of the evenings, one hears the wildlife on the outskirts of the estate boundaries.
A cup of tea (or coffee, depending on your preferences) can lend a sense of being at home wherever in the world you may be. And if you are in a whole plantation, you may as well settle there. The charms are not just about the caffeine, or even with the salubrious climate and picturesque views – but also the calming high you get with putting your feet up on a planter’s chair and watching the world go by. Forget all your worldly worries and drown them in a cup of coffee – or tea – or a whole estate of it!