About this blog: This blog is about the experience of our visit to Singtom Tea Estate and Resort near Darjeeling. This is a complete guide about the place, how to reach Singtom, what you can do there and about this wonderful fairyland perched in the hills of Darjeeling.
There is our love for Darjeeling and then our love for tea. When both combined, it is definitely something we cannot possibly say no to. So yes, the moment we had my eyes on the very beautiful property of Singtom Tea Estate and Resort near Darjeeling, we knew that things could never get better than this. To be honest, the place piqued our interest from the moment we knew that it was the oldest tea estate in Darjeeling. We had been planning our yearly trip to Darjeeling keeping Singtom in mind. Now that the travel restrictions were removed after the pandemic, we visited Singtom to know more about the oldest tea estate in Darjeeling!
We took a leave from office, extended a weekend and were off to enjoy this wonderful place that we had heard about till then. Well, this place can definitely be a lovely weekend getaway from Kolkata. It is a perfect place to relax and soak oneself into the solitude and beauty of the mountains. This is a place where you can avoid the crowd of Darjeeling and yet enjoy a trip to the Queen of Hills!
- Singtom Tea Estate and Resort – the oldest in Darjeeling
- Our Visit to Singtom Tea Estate and Resort
- What can you do at Singtom Tea Estate and Resort
- Some more pictures of Singtom Tea Estate & Resort
- Resources to help to plan your Darjeeling Trip
Singtom Tea Estate and Resort – the oldest in Darjeeling
I had always wondered about the history of tea plantations in Darjeeling. Assam was the first place was tea plantations were introduced in India. While the British East India Company started cultivating tea in Darjeeling area around 1830s, commercial plantation started in the 1850s.
Singtom Tea Estate is said to be one of the oldest ones in Darjeeling. It was established in 1854 by Joachim Stoelke, a German priest. He had actually started tea plantation in 1852 at Steinthal Tea Estate. He was fondly known as Father Steinthal in the area. Together, Steinthal and Singtom Tea Estate are one of the pioneers of tea estates as well as tea tourism in Darjeeling. Well, tea tourism started much later, of course.
Steinthal Tea Estate and Singtom Tea Estate are in fact on mountain ranges on either side of Darjeeling town. Father Steinthal definitely chose a great area for the two tea gardens. Singtom Tea Estate still has few surviving tea shrubs from 1852. The tea bungalow was constructed later in 1862. It initially served as the Estate Manager’s bungalow. Presently, the owners have converted into a beautiful resort and opened for tourists. Singtom Tea Estate is currently owned by the Chirimar family, 5th generation tea entrepreneur. They have restored the bungalow to its former glory by the family and in 2014 opened the place as a boutique stay.
Together, Steinthal and Singtom Tea Estates cover an area of around 1600 acres. So basically, you have 1600 acres of tea gardens, bungalow, villages, forests and waterfalls for you once you are at Singtom. The altitude of Singtom Tea Estate is about 4500 feet (1372m) with the highest elevation being at 5900 feet and the lowest at 2100 feet.
Our Visit to Singtom Tea Estate and Resort
It was only after the travel relaxations during the current pandemic situation, we were ready for our trip to Darjeeling, a place that we both adore. From Darjeeling, a car took us to Singtom Tea Estate, only about 6 km from the main town. A board at Lebong Cart Road pointed towards Singtom and we took a detour towards left. Steep, winding roads took us to this beautiful paradise. The first thing I noticed was the rickety old gate that welcomed us into the quaint and lovely property.
A beautiful garden and a cobbled path lined with flowering plants took us to the main building. To be honest, I felt as if I had come to a fairyland. There were a table and a couple of chairs in the garden, perhaps the place where the guests could simply sit down and relax. What caught my eyes, however, was the riot of pink and red hues of the bougainvillaea plant. The flowers complemented the heritage structure that stood just in front of us.
I was so overwhelmed with everything before me that it took me some time to gather my bearings. The tea estate Manager, Mr Gautam welcomed us with a smile to the resort. He is an amiable person with profound knowledge and experience about tea gardens and tea, in general. And yes, he is fondly known as Amitabh Bachchan at Singtom!
As we entered the property, we saw a beautiful sculpture of Buddha. I later noticed that there were a few other pictures and sculptures of Buddha there. I was also happy to notice that the bungalow also had various paintings of Madhubani and Pattachitra. The place had already become my favourite with its beautiful décor and the use of folk art paintings for decoration. There were other pictures of mountains, tea gardens and others all throughout the property.
The lounge area looked quite cosy and comfortable with plush sofas and a fireplace at one end. There were also a couple of stools that were actually from the time of Father Steinthal. That definitely caught my attention.
The entire bungalow had four suites for guests – Steinthal Suite, Singtom Suite, Victoria Suite and Himalaya Suite. Each of the suites had their own specialty that I will talk about later in the post. We had the Singtom Suite to us for our stay.
The Singtom Suite is the oldest room in the resort named after the Singtom Resort. The moment I entered the room, I was totally in awe of the room. It was huge with a personal fireplace and a beautiful gallery at the end. There is a seating place at one end of the gallery where we could sit down and enjoy the magnificent view of the mountains. Singtom Suite is also the only suite that has a private entrance.
I was totally ecstatic about seeing the room and the private door. The first thing I did was to open the door to explore what was beneath that. And guess what I found? Just as I came outside and took a few steps towards my right, the mighty Kanchenjunga ranges were just in front of me looming at the horizon. I literally squealed in delight and Agni had to come running to make sure I was fine. We both looked at Kanchenjunga without any words for a few moments and then a huge grin broke out on our faces. Tea gardens and Kanchenjunga – nothing can get better than this!
The Steinthal Suite was equally beautiful. It is the largest suite named after Steinthal Tea Estate. The main beauty of the room is the curved window at one end that gives a sweeping view of the mountains and tea gardens. The view is one of the best. This room also has a fireplace that is 150 years old! Steinthal Suite is perhaps the cosiest one, perfect for a couple on honeymoon!
The Victoria Suite is named after the one of tea produced at the Estate. This room overlooks the view of the Kanchenjunga ranges on the North and also has the view of the tea gardens and the garden in front of the bungalow.
The Himalayan Suite is another one having the view of mountains, tea gardens and the lawn. All the rooms have a fireplace. In winters the guests can ask the resort manager to lit the fireplaces in the rooms. The fireplace in the lounge area is lit every evening. There are no televisions in any of the rooms, which I think is a great decision. Who would need a TV on this beautiful property? There is a TV in the common dining area though.
Just beyond the lounge is the dining area. From the dining area, you can get clear views of the Kanchenjunga ranges. Just beyond the dining area, the door leads to the backside patio. This was definitely my favourite area in the entire property. Because you get a magnificent and unobstructed view of the Kanchenjunga ranges from here. There is a small seating arrangement there. To be honest, I spent a majority of my time at the resort sitting at the patio and gaping at the Kanchenjunga ranges. We were quite lucky to get clear days. The mountain views were simply spectacular.
Food at Singtom Tea Estate and Resort
Singtom Tea Estate and Resort serves entire vegetarian food. There are a lot of options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can choose from North Indian, South Indian, Chinese and continental fare. They also have a few fusion dishes like Pav Bhaji Dosas, beetroot Momos, okra Idlis and others. All the food items are vegetarian. The majority of the vegetables are organically grown at the estate.
And then there was Darjeeling tea that we had at our heart’s content. The tea was from there in house brand Chai & Mighty. We had black tea, green tea, Masala black and green tea, oolong tea in the span of 2 days! It was my favourite activity to sit at the patio with a book and a cup of tea! I am pretty sure the kitchen staff grew tired of my incessant desire for tea.
What can you do at Singtom Tea Estate and Resort
As much as I loved watching the Kanchenjunga every free moment I had got at Singtom, there are actually a lot of activities for guests to enjoy there. We took full advantage of our time there and enjoyed the activities the place had to offer us.
Tea Factory Tour
This is something that you must do while you are at Singtom Tea estate and Resort. It is quite fascinating to know how the tea leaves from the bushes end up in teapot giving one of the exquisite varieties of teas. We visited the factory in the morning (the factory is merely 5-7 minutes walking distance from the resort) and Mr Gautam explained to us the process of processing of tea leaves. There are several intricate steps that go into making the finished products. Mr Gautam explained to us the process of withering, rolling, fermenting, drying and sorting of the leaves as we watched the workers in action.
Tea Tasting is an art in itself. And at Singtom Tea Estate and Resort you get the best experience of tea tasting. We had previously done a tea-tasting tour at Happy Valley Tea Estate as well, but at Singtom, the entire experience was different and much better. Once again, Mr Gautam explained to us how should we taste the tea to perfectly understand its flavour.
Some of the finest teas produced in Darjeeling were there for our tea tasting tour. Mr Gautam prepared 8 samples of tea. He soaked each of the samples for 3 minutes in warm water for the first time and then asked us to taste each of the samples. Once done, he asked us our top three choices. Next, he soaked each sample for 5 minutes and repeated the process. Again, he asked us for our top 3 choices. He also told us that it is better to gulp some hot water after tasting one type so as to wash off the previous flavour of the tea.
Agni’s favourite turned out to be the Oolong Variety and the Masala Black Chai, while mine was the White tea and the Green Tea. We surely have entire different tea palates. Well, the White Tea is one of the costliest teas and is manufactured from 2 small leaves and a tea bud. I guess I was quite happy with my choice!
The tea produced by Steinthal and Singtom Tea Estate is packed under the brand of Chai and Mighty. They have various flavours of tea like Black, Green, White, Oolong and Masala Tea. One of their flavours is the Kangra Mist from Kangra Valley. You can buy tea from Chai & Mighty from Singtom as well as online.
Tea Plucking Tour
Tea plucking is beautiful to look at and I love to look at the women plucking tea leaves. Plucking takes place the entire year apart from the winter season. Usually, plucking of leaves does not take place between December to February.
Picnic at 360-degree Point
Well, this is one place that you must visit if you are at Singtom and have a clear day. Located at a higher elevation, the 360-degree point is true to its name and gives a panoramic view of the Kanchenjunga ranges, nearby mountains and the tea gardens. A vehicle took us to a certain point from there we walked to the 360-degree point. The best part is the picnic lunch. We had carried our lunch there and had a perfect time having our lunch while enjoying the views.
And did I mention the trail to the 360-degree point was lined by cherry trees? We went in November, the time for cherry blossoms. The pink coloured cherry blossoms absolutely looked breathtaking against the backdrop of the green tea gardens and mountains.
There are a few trekking trails in the area. Smaller ones take 2 hours while the longer ones take almost 6-7 hours total. The trekking trails go through the tea gardens, forests and offer the view of exotic flora and fauna along with the mountains and Kanchenjunga ranges. There is a trail that goes downhill to the village. We had taken the trail and visited the village school and clicked photographs of the tea gardens on the way.
There is a longer trail that goes all the way down to the Rangeet River. This trail takes a bit of time and you need to have the entire morning to do this trek.
Bonfire in the evening and Games
There is a place in the garden for a bonfire and whenever the guests want, the bonfire is lit. We enjoyed quite a lovely time along with other guests at the bonfire. After all, the bonfire is the place to connect with others.
There is also a place to play badminton at the garden. On request, the staffs put up the net and you can have a game of badminton. You will get racquets from them as well.
The resort also provides the opportunity to relax at the Infinity Mountain View Bubble Jacuzzi. You can simply relax in the Jacuzzi while enjoying the majestic views of the snow-clad Himalayan Mountains. I think it is best of both worlds.
Singtom Tea Estate and Resort simply stole our hearts. The property had all the charm of the bygone days. The furniture and fixtures are done to taste keeping in mind the heritage of the place. It seemed that we had an experience of the old world charm as well as the luxury of modern times. We loved the well-maintained gardens, the cobbled pathways around the property and especially the views of the mountains. Where else can we get such a clear and beautiful view of the Kanchanjunga ranges from a tea estate? Singtom definitely has this in its favour. I personally think that this is one of the prettiest tea estates in the entire country.
Trip to Darjeeling
The resort can arrange a trip to Darjeeling on request. You can visit the main attractions of Darjeeling and spend some time in the town. The trip to Darjeeling comes at an additional cost.
Now some practical information about the place:
How to reach Singtom?
Singtom is around 6 km from Darjeeling town and it takes around 20 minutes to reach the place. You can ask the resort to provide a car from Darjeeling to take you to the resort. There are a number of signposts on the way pointing towards the Resort.
How to reach Darjeeling?
The nearest airport is the Bagdogra Airport near Siliguri Town. Bagdogra is well connected by flights from other major cities of India. New Jalpaiguri is the nearest Railway station. Both shared and private vehicles are available from New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri town to reach Darjeeling. Private cars are availavle from Bagdogra airport to Darjeeling. It takes around 3 to 3.5 hours to reach Darjeeling from Siliguri.
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How to book a room at Singtom Tea Estate and Resort?
Some more pictures of Singtom Tea Estate & Resort
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Resources to help to plan your Darjeeling Trip
- Best Darjeeling Travel Guide – What to Do, See & Eat!
- Darjeeling Mall Road and Heritage Walk – The Complete Guide
- 12 Best places to eat & drink in Darjeeling
- Darjeeling Monsoons – a reverie in the rains
- A Photo story of the Darjeeling Zoo
- Darjeeling Himalayan Railways – A Romantic Prelude to the Mighty Himalayas
- Darjeeling – Movies, Masti and Magic (For a fun Read!)