A Tranquil Delight: Exploring the Scenic Tea Gardens of Uttarakhand

Kusum Tewari
Kusum Tewari 19 Min Read

Nestled in the verdant Himalayan foothills, Uttarakhand is home to some of India’s most picturesque tea gardens. With a rich history dating back to the British Raj, these estates offer visitors an opportunity to immerse in the world of fine tea and connect with nature.

Brief Background of Tea in UttarakhandEarly Experiments with Tea Cultivation in UttarakhandArrival of the Plant in UttarakhandAssessment of Viability by British BotanistsKnowledge Transfer from Chinese Tea MakersKey Tea Growing Areas in the Early YearsKausaniBerinagChaukoriChallenges in Scaling Tea ProductionInaccessible LocationSmall LandholdingsHigh Labor CostsBrief Tea Revival in the Early 1900sAnglo-Indian Tea PlantersIndian Tea BaronsThe Tea Gardens of Uttarakhand TodayFormation of Uttarakhand Tea Development BoardWomen EmpowermentSustainable AgriculturePremium Orthodox TeasRevived EstatesMost Prominent Tea Estates of UttarakhandKausani Tea EstateBerinag Tea EstateChaukori Tea GardensKey Aspects of Tea Cultivation in UttarakhandTerroirCultivarsPlucking and ProcessingOrganic and Biodynamic FarmingTea Tourism in UttarakhandTea Garden ToursTea TastingsTea Making WorkshopsTea-Themed AccommodationTea-Infused Cuisine and WellnessTea Festival ExperiencesBuying Uttarakhand TeaTea Shops in Production AreasSpecialty Tea BoutiquesAuction HousesResellers and DistributorsHealth and Wellness BenefitsRich in AntioxidantsSupports Heart HealthBoosts ImmunityAids DigestionAnti-stress EffectsSustainable Agricultural PracticesOrganic Farm ManagementRainwater HarvestingPruning and Shade ManagementWaste ManagementBiodiversity ConservationChallenges Faced by the Local Tea IndustryClimate Change ImpactsWater ScarcityMarket VolatilityLow Economies of ScaleQuality InconsistencyFuture Trajectory of Uttarakhand TeaNew Specialty Tea FacilitiesResearch and DevelopmentGeographical Indication (GI) TagNew Marketing InitiativesTea Tourism

From the quaint fields of Munsiyari to the scenic hills of Kausani, Uttarakhand’s precious tea gardens are known for producing specialty brews that exemplify the region’s unique terroir. Along with an array of orthodox teas, they also host experiences like tea tasting, plantation tours, and cultural workshops to provide a deeper understanding of the subtle art of tea.

Brief Background of Tea in Uttarakhand

The tea industry of this Himalayan state has seen numerous highs and lows since its inception nearly two centuries ago during British rule. After initial enthusiasm wore off due to logistical challenges, it almost faded into oblivion. However, in recent decades, concerted efforts by the government and local communities have infused new life into tea cultivation here.

While Darjeeling and Assam emerged as India’s major tea-growing regions under the British, the provinces of Kumaon and Garhwal (now Uttarakhand) also witnessed significant experiments with tea as a cash crop. The cool climate, high altitude, and distinct character of the produce showed early promise.

However, factors like the long distance from Kolkata’s ports made large-scale tea production unviable here. Barring a handful of tea estates run by Anglo-Indian families, most gardens in these hills were abandoned by the early 1900s.

After lying dormant for decades post-independence, the tea plantations of Uttarakhand have experienced a revival with support from the government’s Uttarakhand Tea Development Board (UTDB). The efforts have provided a sustainable livelihood to local communities while bringing the state back on the specialty tea map.

“In the mist-veiled valleys of the HimalayasUttarakhand’s tea gardens stand as a testament to nature’s splendor and human perseverance.”

Early Experiments with Tea Cultivation in Uttarakhand

The tryst between Uttarakhand and tea began in the 1840s when the British conducted experimental tea planting in parts of the Kumaon region.

Arrival of the Plant in Uttarakhand

The very first tea plants arrived here in the late 1830s from China, brought by fortune-hunters like William Griffith. The Chinese tea seeds were meant for trial cultivation in various parts of British India beyond the staple tea hubs of Assam and Bengal.

By 1841, Griffith had successfully raised tea saplings from Chinese varieties at Saharanpur Botanical Gardens. The following year, nearly 2000 saplings were dispatched to Kumaon for experimental tea cultivation under the supervision of Sir George King.

Assessment of Viability by British Botanists

In subsequent years, renowned botanists like Dr. Jameson and Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker visited Kumaon to assess the region’s tea cultivation potential.

Their positive feedback, especially about the Guddowli tea garden near Pauri (in present-day Garhwal), generated much interest within the British establishment about developing Uttarakhand as a major tea zone.

By the 1850s, the eminent Chinese tea expert Robert Fortune was also exploring Kumaon and sending tea samples to London, sparking keen interest among buyers for a new type of Himalayan tea.

Knowledge Transfer from Chinese Tea Makers

To build technical skills in tea production, the British encouraged Chinese tea manufacturers to visit Uttarakhand. These experts imparted vital lessons to locals on aspects like tea planting, plucking, withering, rolling, fermenting, and drying.

This knowledge transfer paved the way for larger scale tea cultivation across prime hill stations by the 1860s.

The misty hills of Uttarakhand echo with a Chinese gaze, for it were their tea masters who shaped the land’s brews.

Key Tea Growing Areas in the Early Years

Several parts of Uttarakhand emerged as prominent tea cultivation hubs between 1850-1900, producing brews prized for their excellent quality.


Perched at 1800m altitude, the picturesque Kausani valley was one of the first places where tea was planted on a large scale in the 1850s. Its cool climate and iron-rich soil proved highly conducive for cultivating Chinese varieties.

By the 1880s, Kausani tea had earned much acclaim, especially its orthodox black tea, referred to as ‘Champagne of teas’. Even today, Kausani boasts one of Uttarakhand’s largest tea estates.


In the 1870s, Kedar Dutt Pant pioneered commercial scale tea planting in and around Berinag in the Himalayan foothills. Its excellent climatic conditions produced brews that were exported to London and relished by British tea aficionados.

Some accounts also suggest Berinag gave rise to a unique brick tea consumed in Tibet. However, this link remains unverified.


Several Anglo-Indian families began acquiring land in Chaukori in the 1870s to establish tea plantations. Over time, it became renowned for its flavorful orthodox Darjeeling tea grown at high altitude.

Chaukori’s tea gardens continue to be cherished for their small-batch artisanal teas.

In every sip of Chaukori’s prized orthodox tea, one can taste the tea masters’ wisdom passed down generations.

Challenges in Scaling Tea Production

Despite the initial euphoria, Uttarakhand soon started lagging behind Darjeeling and Assam in tea output because of several limitations.

Inaccessible Location

The remoteness of Uttarakhand’s tea gardens, coupled with rudimentary road infrastructure, posed major logistical hurdles. The long distance from the Kolkata port made large tea consignments unviable.

Small Landholdings

Unlike Assam’s vast estates, most tea gardens in Uttarakhand were relatively small in size. Their output was insufficient to warrant significant investment in transportation and exports.

High Labor Costs

The rugged mountainous terrain increased labor costs substantially for tea companies as compared to Assam’s plains. This diminished the economic viability of production.

As a result of these challenges, tea never really took off in Uttarakhand the way it did in Assam or Darjeeling, even after showing early promise. Except for six Anglo-Indian tea estates, most gardens were abandoned by the early 1900s.

Brief Tea Revival in the Early 1900s

Despite a premature decline, Uttarakhand’s tea industry saw a small window of resurgence in the early 20th century steered by a few pioneering families.

Anglo-Indian Tea Planters

Six Anglo-Indian families – AitkenMitchellDesmondWilliamsMcKay, and Dent – returned to Uttarakhand in the 1920s to revive ailing tea estates in BhimtalBhowali, and Ramgarh.

Using their expertise, they upgraded agronomic practices and processing infrastructure, giving a fresh lease of life to tea in this region.

Indian Tea Barons

Visionary Indian tea entrepreneurs like Thakur Dan Singh of Berinag also invested in tea estates, producing high-quality orthodox leaf teas for export to London. Their efforts brought back interest in the state’s languishing tea gardens.

However, this short-lived success could not sustain itself. After the

demise of pioneering planters like Thakur Dan Singh, most estates fell into ruin again by the 1930s. The world wars and India’s independence eventually sounded the death knell for this promising tea region.

For several decades post-independence, Uttarakhand’s tea gardens remained in oblivion with only vestiges of its former glory visible in places like Kausani and Berinag. This rich legacy was finally tapped into in the 1990s as part of India’s economic liberalization.

The Tea Gardens of Uttarakhand Today

Since the 1990s, dedicated efforts to revive Uttarakhand’s tea sector have helped it reclaim its place as a specialty tea source. Along with infusing new life into traditional estates, emphasis is also being given to sustainable practices.

Formation of Uttarakhand Tea Development Board

The Uttarakhand Tea Development Board (UTDB) was established in 1993 to resuscitate the state’s tea industry through research, training, financial aid, and promotion. The interventions have helped tea farming emerge as an economically viable activity.

Today, around 3500 small tea growers cultivate 1500 hectares of tea across Uttarakhand – a testament to the success of revival efforts.

Women Empowerment

A unique feature of Uttarakhand’s present-day tea sector is the predominance of women, who constitute 87% of the workforce. Tea cultivation has become a tool for social and economic empowerment for rural women.

Sustainable Agriculture

With assistance from the UTDB, most tea planters in Uttarakhand have embraced organic farming practices using biofertilizers, natural pest control, and rainwater harvesting. This enhances tea quality while ensuring ecological sustainability.

Premium Orthodox Teas

Using orthodox processing methods, Uttarakhand produces some of India’s finest specialty teas like green, black, white, and oolong. The high altitude lends a unique Himalayan character to these handcrafted teas.

Revived Estates

Historical estates like Kausani, Ghorakhal, and Chaukori have been revived to their former glory. Their teas now earn premiums at auctions due to high quality and brand equity.

The future looks promising for Uttarakhand tea with new export markets, specialty brands, and technology adoption further boosting the sector.

“The rich flavors dancing in every sip reveal nature’s poetry at its finest.”

Most Prominent Tea Estates of Uttarakhand

From majestic colonial-era plantations to small high-altitude gardens, Uttarakhand’s primier tea estates produce some of India’s most refined teas brimming with flavor and character.

Kausani Tea Estate

The largest tea plantation in Uttarakhand, Kausani Estate spans 207 hectares at an altitude of 1800m. Its lush green tea bushes against panoramic Himalayan peaks make for picture-postcard views.

Established in the late 1890s, it produces premium orthodox teas like Himalayan GreenMuscatel Black, and Silver Needle White. Along with tea tours and tastings, it also offers a tea-themed accommodation.

In 2015, Kausani became India’s first government-owned tea estate to earn organic certification. Its produce is exported to Germany, Australia, and the Middle East.

Berinag Tea Estate

Though much smaller now, Berinag Estate surrounds the quaint hill town which pioneered Uttarakhand’s tea trade in the 1870s under pioneering planter Kedar Dutt Pant.

It reached its peak under Thakur Dan Singh Bisht in the 1920s, exporting prized second flush teas to England, which were highly commended by tea connoisseurs like Laurie Baker.

Today, the estate specializes in artisanal orthodox teas like Berinag Emerald Green and First Flush Black. Factory visits offer insights into hand-crafted processing methods.

Chaukori Tea Gardens

Perched at 2000m altitude, the picturesque tea gardens around Chaukori exude quintessential Himalayan charm. Established by Anglo-Indian families in the 1930s, they are famed for bold Darjeeling tea cultivated through organic practices.

Along with tours and tastings on lush estates like Kilbury and Suraiyon, Chaukori also offers certified organic teas like MuscatelGolden Flowery, and Frost Tea.

“Every estate echoes with rich history and the subtleties of terroir.”

Key Aspects of Tea Cultivation in Uttarakhand

From the tea bush to the cup, Uttarakhand’s artisanal teas reflect a harmonious interplay between nature, craftsmanship, and sustainable techniques.


Uttarakhand’s cool humid climate, Himalayan soil, and high altitude create a distinctive terroir that lends unique tastes and aromas to the tea. For instance, teas from Kausani offer delicate floral notes while Berinag’s orthodox teas have full-bodied malty flavors.


Orthodox Assamese and Chinese hybrids like AV2, BSS1, TV-25 are popular. Some estates use rare Himalayan cultivars like Gandee that are resilient and produce finely flavored teas.

Plucking and Processing

Most estates follow orthodox hand-plucking and artisanal processing methods like withering, rolling, oxidation, and drying. This enhances quality, especially for green and white teas.

Organic and Biodynamic Farming

Many estates like Kausani are embracing organic practices that eliminate chemicals in favor of compost, neem oil sprays, and biopesticides. Some are even experimenting with biodynamic agriculture based on cosmic rhythms.

This ensures health and environmental benefits.

Tea Tourism in Uttarakhand

The tea estates of Uttarakhand offer immersive experiences for tea lovers through guided tours, tastings, stay options and activities like:

Tea Garden Tours

Guided trails through picturesque tea estates like Kausani and Berinag to observe cultivation, plucking, and processing.

Tea Tastings

Sessions to taste a flight of estate’s teas to appreciate distinct flavors and terroirs.

Tea Making Workshops

Learn aspects of tea production like plucking technique, withering, grading, and brewing.

Tea-Themed Accommodation

Luxury stays at colonial-era bungalows on tea estates, like Kausani Tea Terraces.

Tea-Infused Cuisine and Wellness

Eateries using tea in cooking and spas/retreats offering tea therapy.

Tea Festival Experiences

Festivals like the Kausani Tea and Orchid Show offer lively celebrations of tea.

“The tea gardens of Uttarakhand offer multifaceted gems to explore.”

Buying Uttarakhand Tea

For those who wish to bring back a taste of Uttarakhand’s teas, here are some ways to procure premium tea bags or loose leaf varieties:

Tea Shops in Production Areas

Factory outlets and shops in tea estates and towns like Palampur, Dhanachuli, and Almora sell estate-fresh teas.

Specialty Tea Boutiques

Retailers like The Tea Drop (online) and Cha Bar (chains in metros) stock limited harvesting teas from Uttarakhand.

Auction Houses

Premium teas are available via auction houses like J Thomas and GPI Tea Auctioneers.

Resellers and Distributors

Brands like Vahdam Teas source Uttarakhand teas such as Castleton Moonlight White and resell.

When purchasing, look for certifications like UtzRainforest Alliance, and Fairtrade that validate ethical sourcing and sustainability claims.

“Let exquisite aromas transport you from cup to meadow.”

Health and Wellness Benefits

The wellness advantages offered by high-quality orthodox teas from Uttarakhand’s gardens make them even more prized.

Rich in Antioxidants

Abundant antioxidants like polyphenols and EGCG help reduce inflammation and counter aging.

Supports Heart Health

Tea catechins improve blood pressure levels and lower cholesterol to benefit cardiovascular health.

Boosts Immunity

Antimicrobial and antiviral action enhances the body’s disease-fighting capability.

Aids Digestion

Tea compounds stimulate gastric juices and settle stomach ailments like cramping or nausea.

Anti-stress Effects

The natural caffeine stim

ant L-theanine in tea has a calming effect that relieves anxiety and stress.

Beyond physical health, the meditative ritual of sipping Uttarakhand tea also confers mental and spiritual wellbeing through its connection to nature.

“Let every cup nurture body, mind and spirit.”

Sustainable Agricultural Practices

Committed to ecological responsibility, Uttarakhand’s tea planters have pioneered sustainable techniques that enhance productivity while preserving the environment.

Organic Farm Management

Using organic manure, biopesticides and natural cultivation methods enhances soil and plant health while eliminating chemical usage.

Rainwater Harvesting

Collection of rainwater runoff in estate ponds and trenches for irrigation tackles water scarcity. Drip irrigation optimizes water usage.

Pruning and Shade Management

Regular pruning rejuvenates tea bushes and ensures optimal leaf output. Shade trees prevent moisture loss and overexposure.

Waste Management

Composting pruned leaves, recycling, and minimal packaging reduce the industry’s ecological footprint.

Biodiversity Conservation

Creating natural buffers and wildlife corridors helps protect the rich biodiversity of the region.

These sustainable best practices ensure the future viability of Uttarakhand’s precious tea gardens while preserving ecological balance.

“Balance and harmony lead each leaf’s journey from sapling to sip.”

Challenges Faced by the Local Tea Industry

Despite the success of revival efforts, Uttarakhand’s tea sector faces hurdles like climate change, water scarcity, market fluctuations, and limited production scale.

Climate Change Impacts

Rising temperatures, variable rainfall, hailstorms, and drought affect tea quality and quantity. Longer warmer winters also increase pest infestation.

Water Scarcity

With limited water resources, irrigation remains a challenge. Initiatives like rainwater harvesting offer remedies but require extensive adoption.

Market Volatility

As a small tea producer, excessive reliance on the auction model makes Uttarakhand vulnerable to price volatility. Direct specialty tea sales provide an alternative.

Low Economies of Scale

Comprising small growers, Uttarakhand lacks the volumes of Assam or even Darjeeling, limiting global competitiveness. More aggregation is needed.

Quality Inconsistency

Varying leaf quality across seasons and estates affects brand reputation. Investments in technology and training are essential for standardization.

Concerted efforts between growers, government agencies and industry bodies are needed to tackle these issues through innovation and collaboration.

Future Trajectory of Uttarakhand Tea

The future looks promising for the resurrected tea gardens of Uttarakhand as initiatives on multiple fronts help elevate quality and expand markets.

New Specialty Tea Facilities

State-of-the-art tea processing units in Bageshwar, Almora and other tea clusters will aid small growers to produce export-grade teas.

Research and Development

Ongoing R&D at Tea Research Association regional facility in Almora to enhance cultivars, agricultural practices and processing for quality and climate resilience.

Geographical Indication (GI) Tag

GI status for Uttarakhand tea will help protect its unique identity and heritage. Process has been initiated for recognizing Kumaon Tea.

New Marketing Initiatives

Efforts underway to revamp packaging, brand-building and direct-to-consumer channels to elevate Uttarakhand’s tea profile and reach.

Tea Tourism

Expanding tea estate stays, tea lounges and tea experiences targeting connoisseurs and wellness seekers provide a promising growth avenue.

This multi-pronged approach provides optimism for Uttarakhand tea’s expansion into a niche global specialty tea origin.

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