I fell in love with a tea planter and that was the start of the Glenburn project…
My connection to Glenburn Tea Estate is literally the result of a love story. On my gap year, I fell in love with a tea planter. Two degrees from Cambridge later, at the age of 25, I decided to return to India and get married.
My husband is part of the fourth generation of tea estate owners, so tea plantations are in the DNA. When this estate in Darjeeling came on the market, we were so excited because the property overlooked Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, with 1,000 acres of private forest and two beautiful rivers. It was just perfect and with the help of a talented interior designer who restored all the old features of its colonial-era bungalow, the building was lifted back to its former glory. Before we knew it we’d made Tatler’s 101 Best Hotels in the World.
We have eight individually designed country-style rooms with 55 members of staff to look after you. So you have wonderful service offered by an amazing group of people all hailing from the local community. Everyone talks about the service, the smiles, the food, views and landscapes. You can’t pinpoint one thing that makes it special – it all comes together as a unique experience.
The activities here revolve around the natural beauty. We offer a range of hikes from a couple of hours in the early morning to full day excursions. It’s all about hiking around the estate followed by picnics on the riverbanks, among the tea fields or next to a remote waterfall. Along the way you meet local tea pickers and see the area’s beautiful flora and fauna. Sometimes though guests just like to sit on the verandahs imbibing the quiet beauty.
We don’t have an a la carte menu as such but instead have different themed menus celebrating the Tibetan, Nepali, Burmese, Northern Indian and Thali cultures infused in the area. Say it’s a tea theme, we have Burmese tea fermented salad, tea-smoked chicken with oolong tea infused rice and a green tea panacotta for dessert. I’m very particular about our footprint being as local as possible. Everyone sits down at a huge dining table or you can enjoy candle lit dinners alfresco on the verandah. Either way there’s a special kind of ambience you don’t get anywhere else in the world.
Of course, afternoon tea is a daily ritual with cakes and other delicious treats including Indian snacks such as crispy pakora – one of our signatures. You’ll probably be sipping tea from one of the antique cups and saucers that I brought back from England every time I visited my parents. I’ve been collecting them for 20 years!