Our tour included a stop at an amazing tea estate on the way to our last camp, Diphlu River Lodge. We took a flight from our camp at Kanha National Park to Kolkata and drove to Haroocharai (an estate where they grow and process tea leaves). The estate boasts 430 acres of beautiful, short, green bushes with large, fat, tea leaves.
The manager and his wife greeted us (their two gorgeous labradors also approached the guests for a sniff and a pat) and they escorted us through the estate home. We then proceeded to the back "garden" where we relaxed on the gorgeous lawn with a glass of wine or beer. While we rested the manager told us about the tea estate and the harvest process. (James got lucky because the female yellow lab laid at his feet during the talk.)
Tea is harvested between March and December in the eastern part of India. The manager said that it is important to make sure the leaves are placed on drying racks within 20 hours of being harvested. I'm interested in the process of drying leaves (my grandmother taught me how to dry the herbs that I grow at home) and we learned that the estate uses oil or coal to fire the ovens that dry the tea leaves.
We also learned that the harvesting process is similar to how one might harvest herbs. If you've ever grown basil or oregano or whatever - even in a pot - you know to pinch off the top, small leaves before going for the large leaves. This helps with growth and is the basic idea of pruning. This is exactly the harvesting process for tea. The manager explained to us that there are many different plots of tea over their 430 acres and workers will "pluck" (the Indian-English word used for "pick") the same plot once every seven days. That allows for exceeded growth during the other six days.
Learning about tea and the harvesting and drying process was interesting to me because I enjoy a good cup of tea. What was even better, though, was sitting outside in lovely 74F weather, enjoying delicious, home-cooked Indian food for lunch and chatting with those who run the estate, their son, as well as their friends. They embraced us (symbolically) like family! We also adored the well behaved canine members of the family. The dogs were so sweet and allowed us to fawn over them as we were all missing our own pets. As a generalization, I have experienced that the people of India are very kind and welcoming.