Quiet tea break

Give in to the pull of the tranquil at Sourenee Tea Estate, Darjeeling

By Reshmi Sengupta
  • Published 3.01.19, 9:59 PM
  • Updated 3.01.19, 9:59 PM
  • 2 mins read
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A little bit of heaven on Earth Sourenee Tea Estate

It’s better to be wary of such sensory overload when all you need is some calm — a kind of place whose unhurried charm doesn’t make demands on your attention and yet is there to be savoured when you please, at your pace.

Sourenee Tea Estate & Boutique Resort, in Darjeeling district, is such a slow burn of a nest. On a quieter slant of Mirik Valley at 4,500ft, it lures you to be lazy. A favourite non-activity would be putting your feet up on the verandah and watching the green carpet of tea foliage glistening in the winter sun, with the tall, conical dhupi trees whooshing in a sudden breeze.

After hours of idling, you might be tempted to take a stroll. One of the walking trails in the estate is a long, snaky track hedged by thick tea bushes, which stops abruptly on the edge of a slope. What you have in front is an enormous vista — blue sky on top, a faraway town at the bottom, with the greyish-purplish mountains arranged in the middle like in a Monet painting.

The resort has been built in the style of British tea managers’ bungalows.
The resort has been built in the style of British tea managers’ bungalows. Sourenee Tea Estate
There’s a gym and a sauna on the top floor, surrounded by glass walls. Imagine running on the treadmill or soaking in the warm tub gazing at the tea garden.
There’s a gym and a sauna on the top floor, surrounded by glass walls. Imagine running on the treadmill or soaking in the warm tub gazing at the tea garden. Sourenee Tea Estate
One of the new bedrooms on the ground level that invite the outdoors in.
One of the new bedrooms on the ground level that invite the outdoors in. Sourenee Tea Estate

This seven-minute walk from the Sourenee bungalow is best taken alone, during which, apart from the crunch of gravel beneath your shoes, all you hear is your own breathing. Silence, experienced in the wide open, is precious commodity.

In the European market, Sourenee tea estate — which was bought by industrialist J.P. Chowdhary and is managed by his daughter Vinita Bajoria — is known for its organic tea, which it has been producing for more than nine years.

Around 60 per cent of tea gardens in Darjeeling have turned organic because of demand from foreign buyers, says Sourenee’s manager Deb Mallik, but going organic is easier said than done; it’s even harder in a labour-intensive industry like tea. “We need more quantities of tea, for which we need more man days, more manual labourers, more vermicompost and herbal concoctions as chemicals cannot be used, which means more expenses,” he says.

After the 104-day shutdown in the hills in 2017, which dealt a severe blow to tea production, sale processes and the livelihoods of plantation workers, the tea industry is still limping back to life. The pool of buyers has reduced as many went looking to other markets, mainly Nepal, during the nonproductive period. Only tea production is not enough for gardens to survive, especially the smaller ones, and tea tourism is the next best option to provide for those dependent on the estates.

If you feel your tea leaves have lost flavour, here’s a handy tip from Sourenee manager Deb Mallik: Heat a tawa; feel the heat with your hand, it should be bearable. Now toss the leaves on the hot tawa, you’ll notice evaporation. Let it cool, the tea leaves will become crispy. The flavour will be enhanced 10 times. You can use this process for Darjeeling tea as well as CTC.
If you feel your tea leaves have lost flavour, here’s a handy tip from Sourenee manager Deb Mallik: Heat a tawa; feel the heat with your hand, it should be bearable. Now toss the leaves on the hot tawa, you’ll notice evaporation. Let it cool, the tea leaves will become crispy. The flavour will be enhanced 10 times. You can use this process for Darjeeling tea as well as CTC. Sourenee Tea Estate
The sit-out in the front lawn is favoured by guests for breakfast and afternoon tea, with freshly baked cake or fried munchies.
The sit-out in the front lawn is favoured by guests for breakfast and afternoon tea, with freshly baked cake or fried munchies. Sourenee Tea Estate

Sourenee has adopted a self-sustainable model by creating jobs for families of those employed in its tea manufacture. The boutique resort is managed by the kith and kin of estate workers.

The resort has expanded in size and scale in the past few years. There’s now a conference room-cum-banquet hall with audio-visual equipment, overlooking the gardens.

On the ground level are three new bedrooms, the doors of which open to a grassy lawn separated from the tea bushes by a short fence. It feels like you have been planted right inside the garden. That’s yet another way to savour silence in the open.

How to reach: By car from Bagdogra airport or NJP railway station

Room rates: Start at Rs 23,600 (inclusive of all meals, transportation and local sightseeing)

Other activities: Visit the nearby Buddhist monastery and Mirik Lake. Or take a day trip to Darjeeling.

For details, look up soureneetourism.com