The mention of ‘high tea’ usually conjures up images of stately homes and Earl Grey served in wafer-thin porcelain. Indeed, the best places to enjoy this delightful tradition are far more exotic.
In the middle of mountainous Sri Lanka, British tea planters established a collection of tea estates. You can visit one of these plantations or trek through misty tropical forest, before enjoying high tea with splendid views.
What makes Mae Salong special is its history. Populated by remnants of rebel forces leaving China in the mid-twentieth century, the village feels more Chinese than Thai. The Thai government offered these renegades a deal giving them Thai citizenship if they started growing oolong tea instead of opium. Now, this fragrant blend is Mae Salong’s main produce and specialty.
Another stunning Sri Lankan destination, with wavy hills covered in rich green jungle and dotted with waterfalls. Nuwara Eliya has echoes of England, including golf course, boating lake and Victorian post office. A lingering colonial legacy also means there are a few grandiose colonial hotels, Heritance Tea Factory, which make a fine setting for a spot of high tea.
For a traditional introduction to the storied hilltop town of Darjeeling, take the ‘Toy Train’ as it chugs upwards into the Himalayas. The town feels totally different to the rest of India, with its cool mountain air and relatively small size dictating a slow pace. It used to be the summer resort of the British Government and it’s easy to see why they were drawn here; the spectacular snowy Himalayan backdrop, the serenity of a place draped in prayer flags and arguably the world’s finest tea.
Munnar and the surrounding valleys make up South India’s biggest tea-growing area. Sprawling tea plantations have tamed the exotic landscape, glowing bright green and bordered by wild forest. The nearby Eravikulam National Park offers fantastic views over these manicured hills, while also home to endangered flora and fauna. And the tea is sublime.