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Dec 17, 9:58 PM EST
India's tea tourism: Gracious living, great brews, echoes of bygone days
By DENIS D. GRAY
JORHAT, India (AP) -- "This is your own home now," announces our host, welcoming us to Thengal Manor. And we wish it was, this gracious residence of one of India's great tea dynasties, which has opened the family villa, with its idyllic gardens and an impeccable staff of 15, to overnight visitors.
Thengal Manor marked the start of a two-week journey through the world's finest tea growing areas - India's Assam and Darjeeling. We mingled with nimble-fingered women as they plucked a green sea of bushes with astounding speed, we drank pink gins by the fireplace in colonial-era parlors and we were very easily seduced by the pampered lifestyle of tea planters.
And of course, we drank many a cup of Assamese - "bold, sultry, malty" - and Darjeeling - "the champagne of teas, the color of Himalayan sunlight" - enough to send aficionados into ecstasy.
Let me confess that I am not particularly tea-addicted. Too much tannin does funny things to my tummy. But my wife, a Scot, more than makes up for it. So that, plus our love for northeast India, sparked our interest in a travel niche that is very much a growing trend: tea tourism.