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A cupful of happiness with the fireflies

- Agnigarh Bioplantations of Sonitpur seeks to promote organic tea tourism

Jorhat, Aug. 17: Consider this a happiness module — multi-hued butterflies floating over lush green tea bushes and birds chirping in earthen pot nests perched on trees; the heady aroma of organic tea wafting out of the teapot; dark nights lit by specks of waltzing lights announcing the fireflies.

“What more can one ask for?” exclaims Vijay Kashyap, the chief executive officer of Agnigarh Bioplantations, an initiative of a few small tea growers. Their mission is to promote organic tea tourism, the first such venture in the state.

“We are trying to create a perfect environment for tourists to come and stay on the estate and witness the process of making organic tea and even buy the brew. We intend to invite our buyers to witness the tea-making process first hand amid the ethereal beauty of the plantation and its organic practices. Our motto for customers is: Know your Garden and Know your Teas,” Kashyap told The Telegraph.

Agnigarh Bioplantations is 17km from Biswanath Chariali in Sonitpur district.

Kashyap said the absence of pesticides has ensured that the garden is home to several species of butterflies while at night the fireflies take over, especially during the rains, which is also the prime season for making tea. “We have also hung earthen pots on shade trees for the birds to nest. I would say it is the perfect place,” he said.

The small tea growers also have a factory on the garden premises to process their own organic tea leaves into green tea and orthodox tea.

“We have set up the factory with locally-available materials like bamboo and wood and the roof is thatched. The factory lends an earthy and ethnic touch to the very concept of a tea factory,” Kashyap said.

He said local artisans were engaged to construct the factory and the unit was a work of art.

“At present, we have one cottage for tourists but to take this venture forward, we are now planning to build a few more and promote tea farm tourism in a big way in the coming years,” he said.

Kashyap said farm tourism was an established concept and business model in Kerala and in the wine industry of Nashik and Bangalore, apart from vineyards abroad. But in Assam the concept is still a novel one. The small tea growers started the 32-hectare plantation nearly 10 years ago, but converted it to an organic plantation last year.

It is the only small tea plantation in Sonitpur district to opt for organic practices under the National Programme of Organic production certified by OneCert Asia Agri Certification Pvt Ltd.

Kashyap said talks were on with travel agents in the state as well as abroad so that the garden becomes a tourist destination in the near future. “Tourists visiting Kaziranga can easily pay a visit to our garden and have a first-hand experience of the tea making process. It’s only two-and-a-half hours from Kaziranga,” he said, signing off with a promise, “they will go back enriched in mind and soul”.