Heritage & tasting to turn Tocklai into tourist hub

Assam funds makeover for world's oldest and biggest tea research centre

By Roopak Goswami in Guwahati
  • Published 10.10.18, 12:27 AM
  • Updated 10.10.18, 12:27 AM
  • 2 mins read
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The old Tocklai buildings. File picture

The Tea Research Association at Tocklai, with buildings that each have a story to tell, is getting a tourist-friendly makeover.

The world’s oldest and biggest tea research centre will develop the existing campus and its heritage buildings as an important destination for tea tourism with Rs 5-crore financial support from the Assam government.

It will be seen as an important landmark on the tourism map of Jorhat.

The project will be completed in seven months.

“With an abundance in rich heritage, natural panorama, suitable climatic conditions, strategic geographical location and above all, the capacity to demonstrate complete intricacies of tea cultivation, processing, production and research facilities, Tocklai is the ideal place to be a tourism hub,” the director of the association, A.K. Barooah, told The Telegraph.

He said the signature project by the Assam government was possible due to a special initiative of Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami who was the main driving force in converting the concept into a reality within a short time.

Tocklai has a beautiful sprawling campus of around 39 acres, which houses heritage buildings, chain of laboratories, workshop, tea factory, bungalows and a guest house built with the help of the Assam and Bengal governments.

Some of these heritage buildings are still housing important tea research laboratories.

The Tocklai Guest House, a heritage building, is a prime attraction for tourists.

The building was used to accommodate British tea planters who attended field management courses offered by Tocklai.

“The course continues but 88 years of constant use has taken a toll on the building, which requires renovation and restoration,” said Barooah.

“Each of the buildings has a story for the visitors,” he added.

He said the campus has ample water bodies in form of large ponds on the main campus and in its streams. It also has undulating topography in the near vicinity that can be converted to special spots for tourists and to showcase ethnicity and local culture. The tea factory will be a place where the tourists can witness the stages of tea processing and also try tasting different varieties at the tasting unit, he added. “The academically-oriented tourists can venture into the Tocklai Laboratory complex to plunge into the world of tea science.”

A tea museum will be built with suitable dioramas, models and displays. The Tocklai Insect Museum, with its treasure of precious specimens, will also attract tourists, he said.

He said Tocklai can tie-up with other tea tourism enterprises like Kaziranga Golf Resort (Bura Sahib bungalow), Banyan Grove and Thengal Manor bungalow in Jorhat district, the Mancotta chang bungalow and Chowkidingee chang bungalow situated in the heart of Dibrugarh town.

“Networking with other tourist attractions like Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park and Dihing-Patkai wildlife sanctuary will also be possible. The tea tourism sector in Darjeeling, which has already been established, will also be linked with Tocklai as most of the tea gardens are members of the association,” he said.