Best Tea Stores & Tea Lounges in Darjeeling
While Darjeeling is the producer of the best teas in the world, it is also a great place where you can drink or taste a cup of tea made from the leaves freshly plucked from one of its renowned gardens and buy some of the finest packaged tea.
My cup of Darjeeling black tea
There are several tea factory outlets and tea lounges in Darjeeling town where you can drink a cup of black, green, Oolong or white tea while you enjoy the mountain views and learn about the tea types, their flavors and grades from the outlet owner. And then take back home garden fresh packaged tea of your choice.
Packaged Darjeeling tea from Darjeeling hills is one of the prized souvenirs that very few tourists like to miss. There are some Darjeeling teas that you will only get at the factory outlets... it's difficult to find them outside Darjeeling because they are mostly exported.
For example, the premium teas plucked at the Happy Valley Tea Estate are mostly exported to places like Harrods of London.
So which are best tea lounges for drinking Darjeeling tea and the retail stores selling quality teas in Darjeeling town? I shall answer that question shortly from all our experience.
But remember that there are several stores that are not authentic sellers of Darjeeling tea, even in Darjeeling town. After all, more than five times the tea actually produced in Darjeeling district get sold as 'Darjeeling Tea' in the market. Tea from Nepal has pervaded the market and many retailers in Darjeeling sell them as Darjeeling tea.
Unless you are buying tea from one of the outlets or tea lounges of a tea producing company, you should check out for the logo below. This logo from Tea Board of India certifies that the tea is authentic Darjeeling Tea and unblended. All authentic Darjeeling tea also comes with its GI tag that is printed on the package.
Here are some of the best retail outlets in Darjeeling hill town that offer authentic Darjeeling tea... they retail Darjeeling tea leaves and some of them also have their lounges where you can relax and have a cup of pure Darjeeling tea along with snacks.
Nathmull's Tea Room
Nathmull's has been a highly reputed tea merchant of Darjeeling tea operating since 1931. The business has been operated by the Sarda family since three generations. If you are looking to purchase truly authentic and fresh Darjeeling tea from a garden of your choice, then this is where you must head to Nathmull's without a second thought.
Their original outlet is on Laden La Road (opposite to State Bank of India)... you won't miss the prominent store with a bright yellow exterior. The store is known as Nathmull's Tea Room. The family is also proud to call it a heritage store. It is owned and manned by Girish Sarda, a very knowledgeable and enterprising person from the Sarda family.
Girish mentioned to me that unlike most other tea merchants and businesses, in Nathmull's business model, the owner himself mans the counter of the outlet, and therefore, they can only have limited number of stores.
The store at Laden-La Road stocks around 50 varieties of tea sourced both from Tea Auctions as well as directly from various tea gardens in Darjeeling. You get a choice of large varieties and grades of Darjeeling tea here including black, green, white, oolong and other varieties... and of course, you can ask for your favorite flush.
They only sell tea leaves across the counter including loose tea which you can buy in any quantity. They, however, do not have a tea lounge. But, they also sell various types of exquisite tea accessories including tea cozy, cup sets, tea pots, etc.
There is another Nathmull's tea outlet located on Chowrasta Mall at one corner and right next to Tibet Art. It sells packaged tea containing tea leaves collected from various gardens of Darjeeling. They also sell blended tea leaves as well as tea accessories.
Although the stock here is not as large as in the original store, here too you will get great teas from different companies, all at one place.
Earlier, there used to be a snack counter and seating arrangements on the common passageway that leads to the outlet tucked at one end. Here, once you could have the opportunity of even having a fresh cup of Darjeeling tea. But, due to some dispute at the common area, such provisions have been removed. Now, you can only buy tea.
Bhuvan Sarda, a young member of Sarda family that owns Nathmull's business, runs the outlet. He is a friendly and enterprising person. Just talk to him and he will fill you with many insights into the tea gardens and guide you to choose the right Darjeeling tea.
The impressive outlet is located on the popular Nehru Road that leads to the Mall (Chowrasta) and right below the Pine Ridge Hotel. Although Mayukh Tea has been operating for well over 10 years in Darjeeling, this outlet is a relatively new one.
The business is owned and run by Rupesh Pradhan, a local, who grew up in the tea estates of Darjeeling and has immense knowledge and passion about Darjeeling tea.
His obsession for Darjeeling tea is reflected on the company's slogan "Unmistakably Darjeeling" to reinforce the fact, that you will only get genuine Darjeeling tea here, and no other tea. And that slogan is printed on the apparels of all his staff.
Rupesh sources the tea from 35 to 40 different gardens of Darjeeling out of the 87 that are operational at present. They also do the packaging of tea in a separate warehouse. The packaging is quite special where he uses packets made of thick aluminum foils that are covered with small cloth sacks.
The shelves are stuffed with tea packets. The types of tea sold here includes black, green, white, oolong, mixed, milk tea (great for making tea with milk), blended tea and blue tea. And of course you get a choice of flush and single estate tea as well.
This is one place where you can even sample & taste tea before you buy. They will make the tea right in front of you in small china containers and even show you how exactly to taste tea. So, you will know what exactly you are buying.
Golden Tips (Teattoria)
Golden Tips has several outlets in Darjeeling town as well as all over India. Their business has originated from Darjeeling when one of the Sarda family members of Nathmulls separated out and formed his own tea business. But unlike Nathmulls, the focus of Golden Tips has been to expand rapidly all across the country.
And as expected, in all tea outlets of Golden Tips, you will only find staffs, but no owners. However, Golden Tips has made a big name for itself. They stock premium Darjeeling teas as well as others like Assam teas that are sourced through auctions and the gardens.
The most prominent and the signature outlet of Golden Tips in Darjeeling is located at the Chowrasta Mall and right next to the Mall Police Outpost. It's a large store that stocks a wide range of Darjeeling tea as well as a range of tea accessories.
But, perhaps the best part of this store is the large open-air tea lounge located right adjacent to the store. The tea lounge has been named as "Teattoria" which is like a large open deck that also has a section which is slightly elevated.
From all over the open tea lounge, you get marvelous views of the mountains and the valley. The spacious open deck has a nice seating arrangement where you can relax, order a cup of Darjeeling tea of your choice as well as snack (all vegetarians though).
The open deck as well as the store have been done up quite well and look quite impressive. You can enter the open tea lounge from inside the tea store.
All teas sold at the store are pre-packed, so there is no way you can actually smell the aroma of the tea you will buy. You need to bank on the garden it's sourced from, the type of tea you are purchasing, the grade, etc.
Golden Tips (Chowrasta, Second Outlet)
Golden Tips also has another smaller outlet on Chowrasta Mall itself on the opposite side of Teattoria and right next to the State Bank of India ATM. This is in fact the original store that once had a tea lounge with a beautiful view from the back side.
There is no tea lounge here now. The shelves on both sides are packed with tea packets... mainly sourced from various Darjeeling tea estates. If you have a choice of any specific tea garden and flush, you can mention that to the staff at the counter in front, and they will find a packet for you if available or suggest a close alternative.
Once known as 'The Tea Shoppe', it is now known as Cha Store. This prominent and impressive outlet is located right adjacent to Mayukh Tea below the Pine Ridge hotel and at the road level. It's on Nehru Road and a stone's throw away from the Mall.
The main person here is Suman and he is extremely knowledgeable about Darjeeling tea. They too stock varieties of tea from many tea gardens of Darjeeling including Goodricke. They are also a franchisee of Mayukh Tea.
One of the special brands they offer is the Kosva tea... the black Kosva tea is very nice and so is the masala tea. They sell tea of wide price range... from very reasonable to highly pricey ones like the SFTGFOP-1 grade.
While they too offer tea sampling and tasting, but that may not be on offer all the time. But Suman can help you choose the right tea for you. Staff are gentle and very friendly.
There also sell tea accessories such as tea pots, cups, stainers etc that are on display at the glass shelves, and you can see those from the road itself. While they to deliver tea as well as accessories by courier, there have been some complaints on their courier packaging. So, it's better not to place remote orders for delivery.
Happy Valley Factory Outlet
Located a short distance away from Chowk Bazaar area off Lebong Cart Road, Happy Valley Tea Estate
is one of the top tourist attractions in Darjeeling.
Other than visiting the factory and witnessing all the stages of tea processing, you should also visit the factory outlet. Happy Valley tea is considered one of the premium teas in the world. Most of Happy Valley Tea are exported. However, at the factory outlet, you can get freshly plucked tea that are packaged in pouches.
The first flush (plucked during the spring) is known as SFTGFOP (Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe). The best 2nd flush (Summer) black tea of Happy Valley is known as Supremo
There is a small tea stall in front of the factory known as Happy Golden Cafe. The tea stall is run by Kusum Rai, whose entire family works in tea gardens and most of them work in the adjacent Happy Valley Tea Estate.
You can pay and have an aromatic cup of Happy Valley tea at her stall. She will make the tea right in front of you as she tells you stories about her family and their lives in Darjeeling tea gardens. You can have different varieties of tea here that are plucked in the Happy Valley Tea Estate.
As Kusum says, she will make "World's best tea" in just five seconds right in front of you. Go through Happy Golden Cafe
and find out the secret of how you can drink finest of Darjeeling teas here at such cheap rates.
Makaibari Factory Outlet in Kurseong
Almost all who visit Darjeeling would pass by Kurseong town on the way. Only about 3.5 kms from Kurseong town on Pankhabari road is the entry to the factory of Makaibari Tea Estate
. You can park your car outside the gate and walk inside the factory premises. As soon as you enter, to your left is the factory retail outlet and its entrance.
Earlier this retail outlet of Makabari tea estate used to be located outside the main entry gate and on the road. However, the outside retail stall was dismantled and shifted inside the factory premises, although you can see the outlet from the road.
Walk into the outlet and you will see varieties of Makabari Tea kept in pouches and boxes that are showcased. Although all types of Makaibari tea are harvested in the tea gardens here and processed in this factory, they are all packaged in the headquarters in Kolkata for sale, some of which are brought back to this outlet.
Inside Makaibari Retail Outlet
However, if you specifically want first or second flush tea leaves or other types of Makaibari tea that are freshly plucked and processed, tell the lady at the counter that you want to take fresh tea leaves from inside the factory.
She will call a staff from the factory and you will be given a haircap to cover your hair. You will then be taken inside the factory where you can see numerous white sacks as well as wooden boxes full of different types of Makaibari tea leaves.
At one corner, they keep samples of various types of tea on a table so that you can sniff and take in the aroma. They will also let you know the prices of each type.
Tea samples inside the factory
Alternatively, you can say what exactly your want. For example, I always ask for second flush muscatel flavor tea... and even that too has a couple of varieties (such as, Rs. 4,000 a kg and Rs. 10,000 a kg). You will need to buy a minimum of 500 gms.
I had opened a box and dipped my finger to figure out the tea leaves were really hot. My namesake Raj, a factory staff who was guiding me through all these, mentioned that the tea in that box just arrived after processing... a premium quality second flush tea which would mature over the next two days and only then be ready for consumers.
Inside Makaibari Tea Factory Store
I purchased 500 grams of that tea from the hot box for Rs. 10,000 per kg. I had also taken 500 grams from the other variety as well (i.e. Rs. 4,000 per kg).
Although, Makaibari tea has been highly coveted and one of the finest of all Darjeeling teas, my personal experience last time has been a little disappointing. After the Luxmi group has taken over the estate from Rajah Banerjee, there seems to be a decline in the quality of the tea.
Tea sacks inside the factory store
The Rs. 4000 per kg second flush tea, which I was told sells for Rs. 7,000 a kg in the domestic market in pouches, did not have the same muscatel flavor that I had experienced all along in the past when I came time and again at this factory to pick up my ration for the next several months. Having said that, it is still worth giving it a try.
House of Tea
This is an exclusive outlet of Goodricke Tea located on Nehru Road and is run privately by a family. It is a tea lounge as well as an outlet that sells all the well known brands of Goodricke Tea at a price which is much lower than the market rate.
You can have black, green or white tea by the cup or pot. There are also snacks (muffins, cakes etc.) availavle at the front counter.
You will get tea packages of different weights. Some of the great teas offered by the outlet includes Margaret's Hope Spring and Summer Teas, Castleton Muscatel's Second Flush, Castleton Clonal Light & Fragrant, Thurbo First Flush, Thurbo Tippy Clonal, Badamtam First Flush, Barnesbeg Tippy Clonal and Green Tea, Castleton Moonlight White Tea etc.
Talk to the owner Mr. Vijay Puri and he will let you know all about the Goodricke's gardens in Darjeeling and the tea making process.
Cafe Coffee Day
Although known for freshly brewed coffee, the CCD which is located at the Mall also offer nice Darjeeling tea. You can have your tea with choice of several snack items kept at the counter while enjoying great view of the mountains and valleys through the large windows. There is also a lovely outdoor terrace.
Afternoon Tea at Windamere
This one is for the privileged few who have booked their stay at the colonial luxury hotel Windamere located above the Mall in Observatory Hill. The Ada Villa, the colonial property of the hotel which once used to be the planters boarding house, has retained the original British tradition of Afternoon Tea served to its guests between 4 - 6pm in a grand style.
With authentic China porcelains, highest grade Makaibari or Castleton tea, homemade cookies, scones and sandwiches, and the British colonial aura of its lounge which is complete with fireplace and antique furniture, it is an ambience which is rarely matched by any other hotel in the country.
1) Check out Darjeeling Tea
to know all about the tea that has made it large in the world platform.
B K Roy (January 2021)
Thanks for the huge and authentic information about anything Darjeeling. I recently visited the place and found information in this site extremely helpful.
I bought some tea from Nathmulls Tea outlet at Rink Mall, also on Laden la road. Is it really a Nathmulls outlet or Golden Tips outlet? I saw the original outlet of Nalhmulls, as mentioned in your site on Laden la Road later.
I feel cheated as the credit card message shows the Rink Mall outlet as Golden Tips Tea. Also I felt later that the tea they sell from this shop is artificially flavoured, as two varieties of different product name and different flush have the same aroma. How can they sell openly like this bearing the same name Nathumalls but belonging to two different entities?
Thanks again for useful information in your site.
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) January 2021
Hello, I too have seen the outlet at Rink Mall and was surprised to see the Nathmulls logo that they use here. Just to let you know, Golden Tips is an offshoot of Nathmulls family business... one of the Sarda brothers (Madhav Sarda) branched out of Nathmulls and started Golden Tips. It is possible that he might still retain some rights on using Nathmulls' name or the other brothers might have jointly made some investment into this outlet at Rink Mall... however, the original and the authentic Nathmulls is the one at Ladenla Road which is manned by Girish Sarda and my experience with this store has been consistently good since many years. On the contrary and quite strangely, my experience with Golden Tips has been consistently sub-par over the years.