Hills or beach? That’s the question one usually encounters while planning an impromptu holiday within India. If it’s summer, most people head for the hills, to relax in a cottage and enjoy the views, usually of rolling tea estates. India is the world’s second largest producer of tea and about 90% of it is drunk within the country—in homes, offices, tea stalls, cafés, by roadsides, on trains, on flights, anywhere.
Considering that this drink is so central to our lives, very few tourists travel solely to visit the different landscapes in which tea is grown and understand how their favourite drink comes to be. Tea sustains entire communities and the estates are often little worlds unto themselves. Yet, for most travellers, a trip to a tea factory is something to be sandwiched between a visit to a botanical garden and a boat ride on the lake in a hill station developed in the 19th century by the British.
Tea tourism could be elevated to an experience that not only makes tea fun for the traveller but also connects them with the locals for whom tea is central to life—this is what we delve into in our cover story. Hill station economies are dependent on tourism and tea could be one more way to strengthen them. Countries like China, Thailand and Japan have created entire experiences around tea which could provide pointers for India, where each tea-growing region has its own history, culture and stories. Planters have been building cottages and home-stays but these still serve largely as bases for tourists to go on hikes, visit local attractions, and enjoy afternoon tea. It’s a story that gives you ideas for your next vacation even as it explains the unique tea economy of the hills.
Moving on to the other stories in this issue, do read Rohit Brijnath’s column, in which he contemplates the ground beneath sportspersons’ feet, and its impact on their game, just before the start of tennis’ clay-court season at the French Open on Sunday. As always, we have reviews of a wide selection of books, music, food and shows that will get your weekend off to a great start.
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