The thing about tea estates for the untrained eye, is that after a few miles of them, the landscape begins to look monotonous. Of course, estate owners, managers and the tea pluckers will be affronted at such a comment, for, no two estates can be thought to be similar, seeing how different their stories are. Within an estate – as you will definitely be informed – there are always distinctions between patches of tea bushes.
The various stages of a tea leaf as it goes through processes like withering, rolling, and fermenting. Majulighur Tea Estate specializes in both CTC and orthodox tea. Their factory is one of the largest of the company’s six plantations and has its own boiler house to make taint-free tea.
I was at Sonitpur visiting the Majulighur TE on the north bank of the Brahmaputra. At first glance, it seemed like yet another tea estate. Until on an afternoon walk I came upon a large patch of land where not tea but wild plants and grass grew. I walked towards it. “There’s water below,” warned Khyati Shah, granddaughter of the owner MK Shah. Majuli-ghur or Maju’s home was named for the queen Maju Rani, one of the wives of a 17th century Ahom king Pratap Singh. Apparently, Maju Rani lived right here, where the estate stands today, and the patch of land we were standing before was her bathing tank.
The next morning, we head for Gingia, 45 minutes away and also owned by Khyati’s family. Mud-paths and bumpy roads take us to a large estate.
Gingia too lies on the bank of the Brahmaputra. It’s name, I find, is not as surely known as Majulighur. There’s a story about two rivers that joined together to become the Solmari. But I hit a dead-end there. Instead, I find myself listening to the extent of tea production. 453 hectares, a million kgs of Orthodox tea… sometimes, the tea is the story.