Immersion: Darjeeling

*** Sample Itinerary - Cost depends on itinerary and dates ***
Pre-Tour: Kolkata
Base Tour: Darjeeling
Post-Tour: Delhi/Agra/Jaipur

Begin the optional pre-tour extension after a good night's rest (included), with a personally guided Heritage Walk tour of historic Calcutta by a noted historian.  With Masala Chai stands on nearly every corner, we'll treat our tongues to several "secret recipes" and sip our way through the city. India's most important tea trading city, attend tea tasting training in the impressive tasting room of world 's oldest  tea broker J. Thomas. Then, experience the fast paced tea auction to see how tea is bought and sold.

Visit historic monuments, spectacular sacred temples, enjoy a proper afternoon tea and a relaxing river cruise. Explore traditional flower and handicraft markets, enjoy sumptuous banquets and be entertained by the Prakash family, owners of Glenburn tea estate in Darjeeling and Khongea tea estate in Assam. Get a jump start on our studies with a lecture on Indian tea history and culture.

The base tour begins with our flight to Siliguri, the main business center for Darjeeling teas. Just added to the itinerary, we will transfer directly to the Dooars tea growing area. Although it is adjacent to Darjeeling, the flavoful teas from the Dooars are mostly destined for the domestic Indian market and are often overlooked. First, tour a tea garden and see the process of CTC tea, followed by a tasting of the day's production. Then we'll check into the Chalsa Resort, both our home for the evening as well as the location for a special lecture on Darjeeling tea history and production by noted tea planter, trader and historian Rajiv Lochan. Dinner is with local tea producers tonight.

Before our drive back to Siliguri this morning, we'll put on the lab coats and visit the Tea Research Institute for an in depth look at the scientific and technical side of tea, including tea bush development and modern farming methods.  After lunch, visit the Siliguri Tea Auction Center where Darjeeling tea is traded, then we'll have the special opportunity to learn professional tea tasting at a local tea broker's tasting room. Before dinner we'll visit the offices of a local tea trader to learn about the business side of tea and of course, taste a cross section of fine Darjeeling and other teas.

This morning we start our ascent up into the hills and begin our immersion into Darjeeling tea. First we'll visit Rohini tea estate which preserves a collection of different tea cultivars as well as some of the oldest bushes in the area. Taste some teas from this estate and learn the progressive methods they are using. Continuing on to the town of Kurseong, stop at the famous bio-dynamic, organic Makaibari tea estate to learn about their efforts in sustainable practices as well as worker empowerment.  Our next stop is the sprawling Margaret's Hope tea estate to experiencing large scale production. In time for dinner, we'll arrive at  the scenic Glenburn tea estate, our home for the next several days. Meet the staff at a manager's reception and enjoy a delicious night's sleep in the luxurious planter's bungalow rooms.

Each of the next three days will include tea plucking training in the morning followed by manufacturing instruction in the factory, learning the different steps. In the afternoons move to the cupping room for work in comparative tastings, focusing on 1st flush and 2nd flush teas of different grades as well as specialty teas. Also included are visits to the local village, the tea estate's own elementary school, and a spectacular sunrise view of Mt. Kanchenjunga. On our final day, we'll trek through the sprawling tea gardens down to the riverside camp with an in-the-field lecture along the way. Enjoy a special campfire bar-b-que lunch and get your notes and pencils out for our final exam.

The final day of the base tour, we get an early start today, bidding farewell to Glenburn and our new friends. First we'll drive up to Darjeeling town for a little sightseeing and competitive shopping. Then, we'll drive all the way back down through the scenic hills to the airport for our flight to Delhi.  Upon arrival enjoy some sightseeing of the historic capital city and an evening with local tea traders.

On the optional post-tour extension much more excitement is in storeas we drive to Agra and visit the magnificent Taj Mahal. Visit a stone carver's workshop for a peek into the ancient techniques then tour the sprawling Agra Fort. One of the most historic areas of India is Jaipur. Anyone up for a camel ride? We will head to this desert capital and have a reception tea with the Rajah of the ancient Shahpura kingdom. Our accommodations this evening are none other than the rooms of his lavish city home. Dinner is on the rooftop this evening. We'll see some sights of this colorful "Pink City" and take in the bustling night bazaar. Before returning to Delhi the next day, marvel at the architecture of the ancient Amber Fort. That afternoon we'll finish our adventure in style with afternoon tea at the Imperial Hotel followed by a stop a the landmark India Gate and other iconic sights. At our farewell banquet we can share favorite memories and stories of our journey before heading for home the next morning.

The exceptional 8 day base tour program and 3 day optional pre- and post-tour extensions are filled with exciting, educational and authentic  experiences, sure to delight both professionals and devoted tea drinkers, providing memories that will last a lifetime. Due to the unique nature, space is limited, so please make your reservations early.