Many of these plantation estates in East Asia and Africa are legacies of past colonial exploits. Old world charm is thus evident in the refurbished bungalows that have opened their doors to travellers curious for a taste of the pastoral plantation life. A few are decisively modern, built to highlight the raw wilderness of their surroundings.
While tea — and at times, coffee and spices — are the stars of these regions, the properties located in or around the plantations are sights and destinations in themselves. In these villas, nothing feels contrived — especially not the décor, service and the locally sourced cuisine. All these conjure the atmosphere of a private residence rather than a resort.
Perched at 1,250 metres on the edge of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage Central Highlands, Ceylon Tea Trails has a backdrop difficult to beat. Past rolling tea fields, one sees Adam’s Peak, a mountain that has been sought out by pilgrims for centuries.
The resort comprises 27 rooms and suites in five colonialera tea planters’ bungalows, each connected to the next by tea trails. Stay at the 145-sqm Taylor Owners Cottage, which is part of the Dunkeld Bungalow but is a stand-alone suite. It comes with lake views, a heated outdoor Jacuzzi, two bedrooms, a living room and a veranda. A dedicated manager, chef, butler and houseboys attend to each bungalow.
Mornings and nights can get chilly, but day temperatures hover from low to mid-20 degrees Celsius, perfect for a hike through the Bogawantalawa Valley or for learning about the tea-making process from the estate’s resident tea planter.
HIGH UP IN THE MOUNTAINS, AMIDST FRESH COOL AIR AND THE OCCASIONAL MIST, TEA BUDS THRIVE. PEOPLE MAKE THEIR WAY THROUGH FOGGY FIELDS AT DAWN, PLUCKING LEAVES AND BUDS WITH EXPERT EYES AND EXPERIENCED HANDS.
South of Ceylon Tea Trails is Kahanda Kanda, a 15-minute drive inland from the South Western beaches and a halfhour’s drive from both the Kanneliya Rainforest and the historic town of Galle. For utmost leisure, choose the Dubu Suite, which comes with its own lawn and a pool overlooking the Koggala Lake. Housed within a traditional Javanese ‘joglo’ structure, the room achieves congruence with its surroundings through a blend of earthen tones. Think intricately carved dark wooden pillars and ceiling, light rattan walls, and neutral-toned upholstery and sheets.
While the resort is not located within a plantation itself, the nearby Handunugoda Tea Estate will be on the radar of many tea enthusiasts. It is famed for its Virgin White Tea, made of leaves completely untouched by human hands throughout the production process. While one may taste the much-lauded tea at the estate, it is said that the only place where you can buy it is at Mariage Frères, a Paris-based tea. salon.
SAVOUR SOME OF THE MOST EXCLUSIVE BREWS THE REGION HAS TO OFFER
If you prefer the delicate flavour of the Chinese Longjing tea, head on to Hangzhou, China, renowned for its poetic West Lake, well manicured gardens and old river towns. Stay at the Fuchun Resort, tucked in the hills away from the more populous parts of the city. The estate combines elements of traditional Chinese architecture with modern aesthetics — sloping Mandarin tiled roofs over sleek concrete structures, plus tastefully subdued interiors with an occasional burst of peony red. Its award-winning Fuchun Villas, a cluster of Chinese courtyard houses, exude imperial opulence without a drop of garishness. Each 1,500- to 2,000-sqm villa comprises four bedrooms, a living room, dining area and indoor swimming pool.
Follow a meandering path through the tea fields, or savour the resort’s own brand of locally grown Mingqian Longjing tea. ‘Mingqian’ means ‘before Qingming’ and the tea gets its name from its time of harvest — the short window of 10 days between the first spring shoots and the Qingming Festival at the beginning of April. This is when the shoots are the finest.
BUNGALOWS OPEN THEIR DOORS TO TRAVELLERS CURIOUS ABOUT THE PASTORAL PLANTATION LIFE
ARUSHA COFFEE LODGE
If tea is not, well, your cup of tea, consider visiting the Arusha Coffee Lodge, a collection of 30 plantation houses that has grown into one of the largest coffee fields in Tanzania, where the Arabica crop is grown. Inside, the rooms exude warmth and character with dark polished wood, bold safari accents and jewel-toned velvet upholstery. The most spacious of these are the Plantation Suites, which come with a private outdoor terrace with a log fire, as well as a private balcony.
Wake up to the aroma of coffee wafting through the crisp morning air as ripened vermillion coffee cherries are gathered from the surrounding fields. Embark on an onsite tour where guides explain how coffee goes from crop to cup, and watch as well-trained hands roast, grind and brew the beans.
VIVANTA BY TAJ — MADIKERI
Perched on the hills of Coorg in South Western India at an altitude of 1,150 metres, the Vivanta by Taj – Madikeri is surrounded by 180 acres of subtropical rainforest. The hotel’s modern floor plan opens it up to its surroundings; floor-length windows reveal grand vistas of misty mountains, sloping valleys, and thick foliage. The queen of the resort’s 63 rooms and villas is the 2,743-sqm Presidential Nirvana Suite, which has three bedrooms, a swimming pool, private pavilion, courtyard and facilities for in-house dining.
Other than its 350 species of flora and fauna, Coorg is famous for its production of coffee, a legacy left behind by the East India Company, which introduced scientific cultivation of the much-coveted crop to the region. A short walk from the villa, you will find row after row of coffee and tea bushes stretching for hundreds of acres. You might also get a whiff of cardamom and pepper from the surrounding plantations as you stroll past.
THE DÉCOR, SERVICE AND CUISINE CONJURE THE ATMOSPHERE OF A PRIVATE RESIDENCE
Ceylon Tea Trails
Resplendent Ceylon Ltd.
46/38 Nawam Mawatha, Colombo 2
T: +94 11 774 5700
Angulugaha, Galle, 8000
T: +94 91 494 3700
No. 339 Jiangbin Dongdadao,
Fuyang, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 311401
T: +86 571 6341 9500
Arusha Coffee Lodge
Dodoma Road, Arusha, Tanzania
T: +255 754 250 630
Vivanta by Taj
1st Monnageri, Galibeedu Post, Madikeri
Karnataka 571201, India
T: +91 82726 65800