Fancy your cup of tea, but how well do you know the nuances that define a perfect cuppa? Or all the love and hard work that go into its making? Being a tea kid (colloquially chai baby), I have grown up in a world surrounded by tea gardens where the ritual of making tea followed certain rules. The temperature of water had to be right, the tea leaves couldn’t be boiled, milk and sugar had to be served on the side, and even the brewing and straining needed to be done attentively. It seemed like a fuss then, but I soon discovered that those nuances were necessary to truly savour the rich flavour of freshly made tea.
Anamika Singh, another tea kid, who is the chirpy face behind exclusive Anandini Himalaya Tea and a renowned Tea Sommelier across the country, has been working nonstop to educate people the finer nuances associated with tea. Her passion for it is truly contagious and her range of handcrafted tea blends with flowers and herbs have been making tea lovers dive deeper into the world of tea and explore its different types. And now, as the next step, she is organising tea trails to take tea lovers on an incredible journey through the hills of Dhauladhar in Dharamsala to experience firsthand the entire process of tea making.
“The idea of tea trails sprouted because I feel many people don’t understand the relevance of tea. They are unaware of the hard work and passion that go into the making of every single cup of tea, right from plucking the leaves in the fields to processing them in the factories. I want to take people back to the source, and make them experience the history and culture behind it,” says Anamika.
Itinerary for the Tea Trail
The 3 nights and 4 days tea trail starts in Dharamshala, and will be an experience of the tea, the place, the people, the food and the culture. The guests will stay in beautiful homestays in Dharamshala, which are known for their personal touch. Anamika plans to begin the tea trail by taking her guests to a mountain top that her brother and her call the Meditation Point. “It’s a beautiful place way up in the mountains. The roads are barely there but it has breathtaking views of the Dhauladhar range. After this we will be heading to our tea estate called Manjhee Valley where guests will enjoy a lovely breakfast with farm to fork dishes.”
Then starts the tea lessons. Guests will first explore the plucking process in the fields followed by the manufacturing process in the factory. Here’s the best part – the tea leaves plucked by the guests will be manufactured in the factory, and handled over to the guests later as their own batch of tea.
For a local feel, guests will be taken to a beautiful 100-year old mud house set near a river, where a bonfire and Himachali dinner will be organised under the starry skies as people tune in to local Tibetan and Himachali songs sung by friends.
Day 2 will include a tea tasting session at the Manjhee Valley Tea Estate. “After the guests are familiar with the plucking and manufacturing processes, we will be organising an extensive tea tasting session. The tasting will not just be about Himachali or Kangra Valley teas, but will include various kinds of teas from other parts too,” says Anamika.
Day 3 is when the guests will be heading to Norbulingka Monastery to take part in Thangka workshop, which is the Tibetan Buddhist painting done on cotton or silk. According to the monastery’s official website, “Traditionally, thangka paintings are not only valued for their aesthetic beauty, but primarily for their use as aids in meditational practices. Practitioners use thangkas to develop a clear visualization of a particular deity, strengthening their concentration, and forging a link between themselves and the deity. Historically, thangkas were also used as teaching tools to convey the lives of various masters.”
On the last night, a beautiful tea and food pairing dinner will be organised at the homestay to bring an end to the tea trail, as guests start their journey back home the next day.
How to Sign Up
If you are thrilled about heading to the mountains and exploring the tea culture in Dharamsala, all you need to do is drop in a mail to Anamika Singh at email@example.com. She plans to organise 1 tea trail per month, including a small batch of 15 people in each. She will be beginning the tea trails in Dharamshala, and will also be organising them in Darjeeling and Assam.
“It’s something that is really close to my heart. I want to take people back to the mountains and help them explore the whole process of tea making. Once they know its relevance, hopefully they will go back home and be able to connect with their cup of tea,” adds Anamika.