Tea and Golf
Assam has been synonymous with tea ever since Briton Robert Bruce claimed to have discovered it in 1823, though the Singpho tribal people living in areas straddling Assam and Arunachal Pradesh cultivated and drank tea as an herbal rejuvenator for ages. With more than 800 major and 60,000 small estates spread across 300,000 hectares, Assam has the world's largest concentration of tea plantations and employs 17% of the State's workforce. Assam tea accounts for 55% of India's total tea production and 80% of the country's export. In 1833, a British panel sent George Gordon to China to study plantation techniques and implement them in Assam. Gordon returned with Chinese camellia (tea plant) specimens and workers since the local variety was not commercially viable though more suited to ambient conditions. Crossing the local and Chinese varieties yielded the perfect Indian hybrid, plucked by the 'tea tribes' comprising 87 central Indian communities relocated by British planters form central India 150 years ago.
From the first consignment of tea (350 pounds) sold in London in January 1839, Assam tea has come a long way thanks to the efforts of the Tocklai Experimental Station in Jorhat town. The oldest and largest research center of its kind, Tocklai has turned tea into pills and toffees to cater to those not in the tea-drinking club. But brand Assam has invariably been the distinctive black teas (crush tear and curl or CTC). The state also produces a small quantity of distinctive organic orthodox tea that was granted GI status in 2007. The bulk of Assam's teas are sold through the Guwahati Tea Auction Center. A special logo assigned by Tea Board of India separates Assam Tea from others in the international market. On an average, Assam produces 550 million kg of tea. They cheer and refresh more than 85% Indians every day.
In 1829, India became the first country outside Great Britain to have a golf course. The country offers many world-class greens today, laid at Himalayan heights, in desert, military cantonments by forests and lakes and in urbun areas. But Assam's 'tea-tees' -golf courses in tea estates-are in a class of their own.
There are some 20 tea-tees, natural and almost all with nine holes. Within 200 km of each other, these golf courses prepared essentially to enhance the lifestyle of British planters transport one to the grandeur of the Raj days Today, they are helping the estates package them as exotic holiday destinations where tee-putt is as exhilarating as the teapot
Besides classical clubhouses for post-golf sessions, some of these estates have airstrips for tourists to arrive and take off in chartered aircraft. Professional golfers swore by the 18-hole Digboi Golf Course that Digboi Refinery lords over in eastern Assam's Digboi town until the Kaziranga Golf Resort came up in the middle of a tea estate in Jorhat. Designed by one of India's leading golf course architect, the resort has a challenging 18-hole, par-71 golf course that is the first of its kind. The club house is the heritage Burra Sahib's Bungalow. The resort also offers a golf academy with professional coaching and a well-equipped golf pro shop.
The best time to visit Assam is in the months from October to March when the weather is generally pleasant. Don’t visit in summers when there is scorching heat and humidity.