An Assamese tea plantation at sunset

Mancotta Tea Estate, Assam, at sunset © Emma FieldSome of the world’s most beautiful places are those where man and nature have both had a hand in the landscape. This is as true of Assam’s tea plantations as it is of the Cotswolds.

I was taken for a stroll through the Mancotta Tea Estate earlier this evening, finishing with a cold drink in a tree house at sunset. The sun sets at 5.30pm in Assam at the moment. India is all on one time zone, so while sunset happens at a reasonable time in Delhi, here in Dibrugarh it is lights out by 6pm.

The tea plantations take on a second life in the evening. The day’s work is done, the temperature is (slowly) starting to drop and the sun is hanging low in the sky. Assamese tea plantations have the distinction of being the only plantations in the world with trees growing amidst the tea bushes.

Tea grows best in shady areas. The shade for the hilly plantations of Darjeeling, South India and China is naturally provided as the sun travels overhead, but because Assam is relatively flat it’s necessary for tea growers to create the shady spots. The result is a heart-melting dappled effect, as the shadows cast by the small leaves of the trees dance across the dark green of the tea bush below.

Add to that the lengthening shadows of the trees themselves, a mist hanging over the bushes, a near-full moon low in the sky and the gentle background chorus of cicadas and frogs and the whole effect is really rather dreamy; dusk hasn’t changed in Assam since the British established the first tea plantations here over 150 years ago.

A down-to-earth aside: As I wafted through the tea plantation a frog slimed my foot and a snake startled me from my careless reverie by skittering across a drainage ditch close by. Also, on the drive to the plantation we saw a man fall off his bike in fright as a five foot cobra crossed his path. Alluring nature has her dangers and annoyances, especially when man encroaches on her empire too far!

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