Let’s start this with a disclaimer. We’re suckers for a good cup of tea. And when a tea paradise presents itself in the middle of a anniversary-nightmare-vacation-in-the-making, words fail us while describing the experience. Let’s give it a try anyway.
So, the place is Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. It’s November, just before the winter starts setting in on the green misty slopes of the Nilgiri hills. There’s a slight chill in the air. We love the weather, the quaint British town and the glorious nature all around. But we hate the best-rated AirBnB we booked for this anniversary vacation, and want to get out of the place at the first available opportunity.
While scrolling online for things to do in Coonoor, specially tea tasting experiences, we come across this place called Tranqulitea, a tea estate nearby. They offered an amazing tea tasting experience (as per online ratings, which we were having trust issues with after our AirBnB experience) and a tour of the estate. We decided to give it a try anyway.
So we call up Mr. Sandeep Subramani, the owner and the host. He’s the most welcoming host one could imagine and we immediately book a group tour. There’s an option to book a private tour too, but he already had other reservations for the day.
We reached the estate at the decided time, around 11 am in the morning, enjoying the expansive tea gardens and the winding roads from our auto-rickshaw. As it turned out, the other group didn’t turn up so we were the only ones booked during the slot (a private tour at the cost of a group tour – we’re not complaining!).
We were greeted by a huge bison sitting right at the entrance of the estate.
A word on bisons – Bisons are a thing in those parts of the world. They’re huge beasts, very calm if you observe a herd from a distance. But extremely moody, and strong. Better to stay away and not grab their attention – for your own safety. Amazing creatures though.
Coming back to the story, we were greeted by Mr. Sandeep at the entrance. He guided us in, helping us avoid the bison’s attention on the way. The estate, called Tranquilitea, is a quaint tea estate, a tea garden, and his home, spread across 30 acres. Sandeep and his family have been managing this estate for years – and now have people visiting them from across the world. They also host guests at their farm stay.
(We would have packed our bags and moved instantly, but both the rooms were already reserved. Something for next time, maybe.)
During the first part of the tour, he explains the tea cultivation and harvesting process and the parameters which decide how the end product would taste. Sandeep is a soft spoken guy, extremely knowledgeable and warm. At the same time, a tea connoisseur. We thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, and picked tea leaves ourselves for the first time.
We could go on writing about tea processing and the factors that impart tea it’s aroma and body, but that would ruin the experience if you plan to visit. So, we’ll skip that part. It’s better heard right from the horse’s mouth. Please do add a comment if you would like to know more.
This is the more enjoyable part. Armed with all the freshly gained knowledge on how tea is processed from a shrub to a cup, this experience closes the loop. The guests are offered fresh teas inside the cottage dining room, and there are stories and experiences which are shared. You understand the practicalities of all the terms used during the tour, like the body and aroma/flavor and how it varies from one variant to another.
You can pick your favorites and buy tea too, if you like it. There’s no reason you wouldn’t. If you have luggage space constraints on your vacation, there’s the option of buying online too. Just remember the name of the variant you liked. As far as we’re concerned, we’ve still not been able to go back to standard “Tata tea gold” since we tasted the CTC from Tranquilitea. Their gourmet teas have taken a special place in our kitchen.
Tea tasting at Tranquilitea is a memorable experience. It can be a romantic one too if the two of you share a common love for tea. Knowledgeable, without doubt. We hope to visit Coonoor again just for staying at the farm stay and savoring the complete experience.
It’s experiences like these that we love about travel – it opens your eyes to the unknown. Like knowing that there’s someone in Coonoor, a 4th generation passionate tea planter, who cares about what ends up in your cup of tea every morning.
Just like knowing that some unknowns are better left unknown – this is for you chai latte. More on this another day.