North Bengal is the favorite weekend destination of Bengalis. Preferred in every season, North Bengal is a tourism hotspot thanks to the lofty Himalayas, rolling tea gardens, wildlife, pleasant weather, and breathtaking views. There is no dearth of charming villages here, and recently we stumbled upon one. The place is called Mim Bustee or Mim Village, famous for its eponymous tea estate. Sprawled across a huge area and surrounded by pine forests and Rhododendron trees, Mim Tea Estate is the ultimate weekend destination.
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About Mim Tea Estate:
The Mim Tea Garden was established way back in 1863. According to local lore, this tea estate was managed by a British lady. The locals used to call her ‘Mem’ or ‘Memsahib’ and the tea garden managed by her came to be known as ‘Mem ko Kaman’ or Memsahib’s Garden. It is believed that the word ‘Mim’ has been derived from ‘Mem’ or ‘Memsahib’.
Interestingly, the Mim is the only tea garden in Darjeeling that is run by the Government of India under the name of Andrew Yule Company.
Where is Mim Tea Estate located:
The Mim Tea Garden is just 20 km away from Darjeeling and 12 km from Ghoom. It lies midway between Lepchajagat and Sukhiapokhri. While driving from Lepchajagat towards Sukhiapokhri, you will notice a signboard on the right showing the direction of Mim Tea Estate. Take the right turn, drive off-road for a few kilometers, and soon you will reach your destination. The village is known as Mim Bustee.
Where to stay in Mim Tea Estate:
There are 3 options of accommodation available inside the Mim Tea Garden – the Mim Tea Estate Heritage Homestay (the erstwhile bungalow of the Estate Manager), Little Forest Homestay, and Takto’s Homestay.
Our Experience at Little Forest Homestay:
The Little Forest Homestay is perched on a mountain slope and nestled amongst endless greenery. Surrounded by Pine, Spruce, Cedar, and various other coniferous trees, this homestay proved to be a home away from home. The vibrant exteriors of the cottages stand out against the green backdrop and make a perfect postcard from the mountains.
The homestay is constituted of a main building that houses the dining hall and 5 rooms, 5 cottages, and a beautiful garden. As usual, the entire homestay is spick and span, and tastefully decorated. The garden was in full bloom with colorful flowers such as Asters, Magnolias, Dahlias, and Roses as well as various orchids.
We had booked two cottages, and the rooms were cozy and spacious. The rooms were large enough for the comfort of two adults. They were squeaky clean and well-furnished with beds, cupboards, tables, chairs, and mirrors. The bed covers and pillow covers were also neat and clean. Extra pillows and heavy blankets were also provided. The bathrooms had a 24-hour supply of hot water. Furthermore, both rooms had balconies with spectacular views. Every day we enjoyed our afternoon tea relaxing on the balconies.
The food at Little Forest Homestay was outstanding, both in terms of quality and quantity. The menu was diverse and no single item was repeated. The milk products such as butter and paneer were excellent and all were prepared at their own dairy.
Most of all, we absolutely loved the hospitality of this quaint homestay. The local people working at the homestay are warm and friendly, and always ready to help.
What to do at Mim Tea Estate:
The Mim Tea Estate is an ideal destination for a relaxed weekend getaway. It is perfect for unwinding yourself from the mundane life and rejuvenating your mind from the daily chores.
For a memorable experience, try doing the following while staying at Mim Tea Garden:
1. Wake up at sunrise and take a stroll down the road. Soak in the sight and sound of nature. Enjoy the tranquility along with the chirpings of birds and the faint sound of the river. Savor the sight of red and pink Rhododendrons, white and pink Cherry Blossoms, and the countless hillside unknown flowers.
2. Explore the tea gardens. Mim is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful tea gardens in Darjeeling. You can go inside the tea gardens and take photographs. However, please be careful not to damage the delicate tea leaves.
3. Visit the tea factory and experience closely the process of rolling tea leaves and manufacturing tea.
4. Drive down a craggy road and reach the Rangit River. Sit back on one of the huge rocks, watch the river flowing, and enjoy the serenity.
5. You can see the Kanchenjunga from the Little Forest Homestay. Sadly, when we visited, the weather remained cloudy and misty and we couldn’t catch a glimpse of the mighty Himalayan peak.
How can I reach Mim Tea Estate?
By train: Opt for any of the overnight North Bengal trains from Sealdah railway station (such as Teesta-Torsha Express, Darjeeling Mail, and, Padatik Express) and reach New Jalpaiguri station in the morning. You can also look for day trains from Howrah station such as Vande Bharat Express and Shatabdi Express.
By bus: Since train tickets in North Bengal always remain high in demand, you can travel by sleeper Volvo buses, which start from Esplanade and are quite comfy. Moreover, multiple buses of NBSTC (North Bengal State Transportation Corporation) ply daily from Kolkata. However, these buses are mostly Spartan, and hence quite uncomfortable for a long 14-15 hours of journey.
By air: The nearest airport is Bagdogra, which in turn is very well-connected with important Indian cities.
How can I reach Mim Tea Garden from NJP/Bagdogra:
You can hire a car from NJP station or Bagdogra airport. Better yet, ask the homestay to send a car for you. It will cost you INR 4000.
If you are a budget traveler, you can opt for shared jeep rides from NJP station and get down at Ghoom. From Ghoom, you will need to rent a car to reach Mim village. The rate of the shared jeep is INR 400-450 per person.
What is the best time to visit here?
Except for the monsoon months, the tea estate can be visited all year round.
What are the charges of Little Forest Homestay:
The rate of the cottages where we stayed was INR 1750 per day per person, including food. The rate of the rooms in the main building is INR 1600 per day per person, including food.
What other places can I visit along with Mim Tea Estate?
1.Lepchajagat: Lepchajagat is a stone’s throw away from Mim Tea Garden. The word literally means “the world of the Lepchas”, which signifies that this place was once dominated by the Lepcha tribe.
Nestled at a height of around 7000 feet, this quaint hamlet is renowned for its misty, mystical pine forest.
2.Ghoom: Known as the highest railway station in India, it is part of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways. This bustling place is famous for Yi Gha Choling Gompa or more popularly, Ghoom Monastery, and the Batasia Loop.
3.Darjeeling: Famous for being the ‘Queen of the Hills’, explore Tiger Hill for a glorious view of sunrise and the Kanchenjunga, Japanese Shanti Stupa, Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, and Mahakal Temple.
4.Takdah: Located about 50 km from Mim Bustee, Takdah is one of the most popular destinations on this route. The word Takdah means ‘fog’ in the Lepcha tongue.
Takdah has some interesting places such as Takdah Orchid Centre, Barbetey Bridge, Dechen Pema Tshoilling Gompa or Takdah Monastery, Takdah Palace, Durpin Dara Viewpoint, and Peshoke Tea Garden.
5.Tinchhuley: The word Tinchhuley translates to ‘three ovens’. Lying just 3 km from Takdah, it is famous among tourists for offering mind-blowing views of the Himalayas and vast stretches of tea gardens.
Visit the Tinchhuley Monastery, magical Rongli Rongliat Tea Garden, Sunrise View Point, and Gumba Dara.
6.Lamahatta: This charming village has now become a tourism hotspot thanks to vigorous eco-tourism efforts.
Like Lepchajagat, Lamahatta is also celebrated for its ethereal pine forests. You can also trek through the pine forest and reach the sacred pond that lies at the top.
7.Mirik: Mirik is another beautiful destination near Mim Tea Garden. Visit the Mirik Lake, taste the heavenly First Flush Tea at Gopaldhara Tea Estate, do some shopping at Pashupati Market (situated on the Indo-Nepal border), and catch a glimpse of the Kanchenjunga at Simana View Point.
8.Sandakphu: If you have 2-3 days to spare, visit Sandakphu. Book a vintage Land Rover from Maney Bhanjang and travel through the picturesque hamlets of Chitrey, Meghma, Tumling, Tonglu, Gairibas, and Kalipokhri. Sandakphu is the highest point in West Bengal and provides a clear, panoramic view of the world’s four highest peaks – Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, and Makalu.
9. Gurdum: Just an hour’s drive from Mim Bustee, Gurdum is another excellent off-beat destination. Gurdum is a picturesque hamlet, cradled in the Himalayas at an altitude of 8,000 feet. It is a terraced valley surrounded by lush coniferous forests and rhododendron groves of the Singalila National Park. It is a tiny settlement of about 15 families, and hence a perfect getaway for enjoying solitude away from the hustles of city life.