From Scotland to Nepal, Immersive Tea Tourism Is on the Rise Around the Globe

There are many remarkable aspects of Scotland that are worthy of being featured in tourism articles: Scotch whiskey, The Highlands and the Highland Games, haggis – even the Loch Ness monster.

That tea could also be a tourist draw in Scotland is rather unexpected, bordering on astonishing. Yet, unknown to many, Scotland grows some of the finest teas in the world, commanding premium prices at select British markets (Fortnum & Mason’s Rare Tea Counter, The Bulgari Hotel and Andrew Fairlie Restaurant). It’s something the producers of these Scotland-made teas want the world to know. And in that process, these tea growers – and others around the world, like in Nepal – are inviting people to come to join them, experience their interactive tea tours, try the tea, and permit themselves to be pampered by warm hospitality.

The Tea Gardens of Scotland Make Scotland a Tea Tourism Destination

The owners of the various tea gardens of the collaborative group, The Tea Gardens of Scotland, are nine lady tea farm owners. Indeed, they are known by their tea, which is a blend of leaves from each of their tea farms, brought to common processing site and made into “Nine Ladies Dancing.”

Nine Ladies Dancing is a black tea with flavor profile as noted below:

  • A black tea, amber to light gold liquor, a bright clear cup
  • Light, delicate sweet with caramel, chocolate, dried fruit and woody notes
  • 2.5 to 3g per 200ml, steeped at 95 C for three to four minutes
  • Pour off liquid from leaves after steeping, whole leaf can be brewed three times

Each of the individual Scottish tea gardens also have their own brews, particularly green tea. These sell in very small quantities and are considered rare teas.

These small women-owned farms are mainly situated in formerly dilapidated walled gardens of country homes (and one castle). These would, in their time, have serviced the house with vegetables for consumption by the residents. But as the gardens continued to get neglected, Susie Munro got a novel idea – why not try to grow tea in them.

So, in 2010, she obtained some cuttings from Nepali Camelia Sinensis Variety Sinensis and Georgian variety of the same, but things were not going as planned. Inclement weather and the fragility of the plants rendered her a sparse harvest. Still, this was more a proof-of-concept that tea would grow. She realized she would have to obtain some advice from a consultant and involve others.

Still, it wasn’t until she learned of her ancestral connection to the Bruce family, being the great-great-great granddaughter of Charles Alexander Bruce and great-great-great grandniece or Robert Bruce, both of whom are credited with the establishment of the first tea plantations in Assam. She even visited Robert Bruce’s gave at Tejpur in Assam, reputed also to be his birthplace.

She had known vaguely of her lineage back in 2010, but only after reading read William H. Uckers’ All About Tea, a book written by her mother’s first cousin, which described how the gardens were established that she got a motivational boost. “At the time,” says Munroe, “the cuttings, which are very shallow-rooted were not doing well – it had been a trial and tribulation – and I thought about giving up on the whole project. Then I got the book, Uckers’ All About Tea, and I read about Robert Bruce using elephants to uproot trees to clear the land for tea gardens, and I thought, ‘Here I am, getting upset with our conditions in Scotland – don’t be pathetic. Buy a polytunnel.’ So I bought a tunnel, and once we got the polytunnel, we were able to shelter the plants enough and we were able to keep them healthy enough to actually get a reasonable tea harvest by 2015.”

The flavor profile of the tea was very good, and so Munroe realized she had cultivated a viable crop.

Still, Munroe knew that the lots she was producing were not of a saleable quantity, so she decided to involve others. Some of the Nine Ladies were people she had known for many years – also with walled gardens, others she contacted through word of mouth and the tea community.

This time, the nine ladies decided to procure seed from Nepal and ex-Soviet Georgia to grow long taproots in greenhouses before planting them in the soil. It made a world of difference to the growth of their nascent crops. And, within about four years, they were making viable growth.

They got some funding from a Leader Grant from Europe and obtained advice from Tea Consultant Beverly Wainright at whose factory (Scottish Tea Factory) they first processed their teas before setting up small processing hubs at selected tea gardens.

The largest Scottish garden is owned by Pinkie Methven, who has planted 5,500 plants at a place called St. Martin’s Abbey.

Planted in a previously abandoned walled garden not used since World War I, the upper garden is 1.8 acres, built on a slope.

The southern wall still has the old coal store with fireplaces and chimneys, which heated the peach houses in the second lower walled garden. Pigs were introduced to clear the land prior to planting. In the summer, the edges of the garden are a mass of poppies and numerous unexpected varieties of fruits grow there too.

The main house was built in 1792 and the grounds and walled gardens laid out in tandem to provide flowers, fruit and vegetables for the main house and estate workers.

“In Scotland there are a lot of walled gardens, which have fallen into disrepair,” says Methven. “Some have been developed into houses, and these are beautiful Victorian structures which would have provided vegetables for the big country homes on the property where they’re located.” Converting these into tea garden has made use of the land and created large carbon sinks that mitigate climate change.

Generations of Methven’s family had grown tea in Assam, which inspired Pinkie’s interest in trying it out in Scotland joining Tea Gardens of Scotland when it formed in 2016.

St Martins Tea Garden is six miles north of Perth, with accommodation, nearby at Murrayshall House Hotel and golf courses and the Meikleour Arms Hotel and Restaurant, which is at the heart of the Meikleour estate, renowned for some of the best salmon fishing in Scotland.

Scone Palace, the iconic crowning place of Scottish Kings, is close by and also is enroute – via the must visit Persie Gin Distillery at Bridge of lla- to Braemar in the Scottish Highlands.

Scotland - Nepal - Tea Tourism - Agritourism
Rare tea served at St Martin’s Abbey during a tea tasting (Photo: Courtesy of The Tea Gardens of Scotland)

Methven offers tea tours from £55 for a minimum of four people and include a tour of the walled garden with details of the garden's history, and the tea garden now taking up the majority of it. A tea tasting of which ever Scottish teas are being produced at the time of visiting is offered to guests, as well as an explanation of tea artifacts and methods used to make each tea in the production room in the main house.

“We teach how to brew tea properly,” says Methven’s friend and colleague Catherine Drummond Herdman of Megginch Castle Tea Garden. “How to slow down and listen to the tea. The other difference that Scotland makes is the water. It’s soft and full of nutrients, and it makes the tea taste so much better.”

At Megginch Castle tea garden, one can take tea in the 15th century dining room and have cake too, of course!  Whilst discussing all things tea, tourists drink tea from family china brought back on The General Elliot, an East Indian trading Clipper captained by the ancestor of the current Drummond of Megginch, Catherine (The Drummonds of Megginch are an ancient Scottish family who have been farming at Megginch Castle in the beautiful lands of the Carse of Gowrie since 1664).  One can also see the collection of tea caddies on loan from Innerpeffery Library, the oldest lending library in Scotland.

The tour is concluded with a visit to ancient walled garden, where naturally grown tea bushes are planted. It’s a diamond shaped garden where tea is planted in the corner of a diamond shaped walled garden as well as on the outside of the walls, which is the South-facing wall. Interestingly, the plants on the outside are almost doing better than those on the inside because the sun strikes the wall and heats it up, almost like a radiator. Drummond Herdman quipps, “Getting that heat, they seem to be enjoying it out there.”

Megginch Castle is a vibrant, and active family home where children, community and countryside are closely integrated. Drummond-Herdman works to share the joyful spirit of the garden and adjacent apple and plum orchard, placing them at the heart of education and healing projects such as one which heals children with additional support needs. They come at the end of the school year and experience the garden.

Beside the castle is an apartment where tourists can stay. It is let out for short stays. Rooms are spacious and suite-like, and the upper bedroom overlooks the entire tea garden.

Drummond Herdman’s Megginch Castle tea garden is one of the Perthshire Gardens, all within easy reach of one another (20 minute drive), and bespoke tours can be arranged in conjunction with the three gardens that are open.

Megginch Castle and Tea Garden Scotland - Tea Tourism - Agritourism
Cathereine Drummond-Herdman at the gates of Megginch Castle and Tea Garden in Scotland (Photo: Courtesy of The Tea Gardens of Scotland)

Ronnie Murray Poore, another co-founder of The Tea Gardens of Scotland group and owner/grower at Broich Tea Garden, Crieff, Perthshire, is a chef by training, and she has always celebrated the link between terroir and taste with regard to food pairing. So, Broich tea pairs beautifully with some of the local Scottish foods.

Murray Poore’s family connection with tea dates back to the 1920s. Her grandfather worked as a Manager for Grindlays Bank in Rangoon and Calcutta before a new posting took him to Ceylon, where he met his wife, the daughter of a tea planter from the Nuwara Eliya region.

They moved back to India before purchasing their home the outskirts of Crieff in the 1950s, complete with a steading and market garden. In 1995, the old steading was converted into a family home and holiday cottage.

The terroir at Broich is not like the other properties in The Tea Gardens of Scotland collective. It lies alongside the River Earn, only 80 metres above sea level on rich alluvial soil / silt. The project began in 2016 with cold hardy seeds, Camelia sinensis, Kolkhida variety from Georgia (ex. Soviet Russia). Murray Poore planted 1,200 Camelia sinensis seedlings in the ground in 2017 and the bushes are thriving.

Broich Tea Garden has a unique cottage, hidden away down a farm track, ideal for two couples who want a relaxing country break in an idyllic position with the convenience of Crieff market town less than a mile away.

Broich Tea Garden Tea Tasting Cottage Treehouse Scotland
Broich Tea Garden Tea Tasting Cottage Treehouse (Photo: Courtesy of Tea Gardens of Scotland)

A stay at the cottage will surround one by gorgeous scenery and abundance of wildlife. It’s ideal for walks and even has a tennis court that can be used.

Hosted tea tastings and sampler tea tastings in the rooms are comprised of six teas, including one of our their own Scottish teas alongside teas selected from other gardens around the world. Expert opinions and tasting notes are included, together with pairing platters to complement the choices.

Two cottages sleep four guests each, both with spacious living and dining areas, along with wood burning stove and large comfortable sofas. There’s also well-equipped kitchens and supremely comfortable bedrooms.

Broich Tea Garden Scotland
Broich Tea Garden family home (Photo: Courtesy of The Tea Gardens of Scotland)

Jane Spencer Nairn’s Rankeillour Tea Garden also offers tea tours. In fact, they’re converting a cottage into a tea tourism accommodation, which is to be ready imminently for guests to rent and enjoy, ensconced in the verdant scenery of a tea garden. The cottage sleeps four and the upper bedroom has a view of the lush tea garden.

Nairn notes that people can even base themselves at the garden to go to Edinburgh, which is only an hour away by train (less by car); the museums, shopping and beaches there can be enjoyed while being based at the garden. “So, aside from tea it’s a convenient place to be situated,” she says.

Nairn explains her approach to the tea tour: “I give them a walk-through, and at the top of the garden, I explain about how we grow the tea, the greenhouses. We walk down the avenues and explain how the tea is growing. I’ll show them the compost area, the inner walled garden and the outer wall, and explain the benefit of being grown next to apple and plum orchards. Seems to me that the people who are more interested in tea [is who] we get. I find it particularly interesting discussing the tea on the tours and talking about the heritage of tea, and mentioning how the heritage of tea ties into the heritage of Scotland."

Murray Poore agrees: “When you say you grow tea in Scotland, people say, what? Nobody can believe that we grow tea in Scotland. And, yet it’s such a part of our heritage.”

Nairn’s connection to the nine ladies comes from her long friendship with Munro. “I’ve known Susie for a long time,” she says. “And I was following her journey with her tea when she initially started with interest, and when she said she was looking for people to join in, I thought I’d give it a go. We were moving from where we were, near her up in Angus down to the farm here in Fife, so there was some land here that wasn’t being used for anything, so we decided to go for it. This would have been 2016.”

Nairn’s Tea Garden is in what remains of an old walled vegetable garden, which was used as a market garden and nursery before lying fallow for several years. There is a strong gardening tradition in both sides Nairn’s families - flowers and vegetables - as well as a tea drinking tradition, “so it is lovely to be able to combine the two,” says Nairn.

Pest control is aided by the chickens who are very partial to a slug and it’s preferable to using slug pellets!

With the help and support of Tea Gardens of Scotland, Nairn planted out 1,800 cold-resistant variety Nepali seedlings into our half-acre two summers ago. They are nine women with six walled gardens who’ve converted their dilapidated gardens into micro-gardens for growing tea. No single garden produces a saleable amount of tea, so they are combined into blend.

Munro’s tea tours are extensive, and take a minimum of two hours. They take a maximum of ten people at Kinettles Tea Garden and, if there is spillover, the remaining up to a maximum of 10 are taken to Glamis Castle.

“They see the mature bushes, 13-year old bushes, the proper height the plucking table [they get to pluck], as well as the young plants, the nursery plants; I talk to them about the flavor profile; the caffeine issues; normally when they arrive I can find out what their level of knowledge is, as well as their interested. It’s a big area to cover in two hours, so I need to work out beforehand what to emphasize within the tour. They a do a tea tasting, and I talk to them about the trials and tribulations of growing tea in Scotland, and then we take them to the walled garden up a bit of a hill, and if someone is disabled, we can make arrangements for that. We do the tours on Wednesdays, from 10 to 12 and from 2 to 4, as we have to avoid the days when we’re actually making tea in the small factory. We don’t want people’s hair to fall in the tea as we’re making it, for instance. The gentle build up of the tour is actually taking them to the processing area and showing them how tea is made.”

Munro does not host people for accommodation. However, the following are recommended places to staynear by: Lands of Loyal Hotel in Alyth, if wanting to stay for a night or two only. If staying in the area for three days or more, then Kinblethmont has beautiful and varied accommodation. Both of these are 20 minutes from the tea garden.

Megginch Castle Tea Tourism Scotland
Apartment living space beside Megginch Castle, cozy accommodations for tourists (Photo: Courtesy of The Tea Gardens of Scotland)

It's a Collaboration, Not a Cooperative

Nairn is careful not to call them a cooperative: “We’re a collaboration not a cooperative in that we work together to pool our teas into a single blend.”

Munro elaborates: “The support from the group, especially in the beginning, was really beneficial to us as individual growers. We were learning off of one another, and also there’s the business side, so because there are nine of us we can each specialize in various aspects of the business – one deals with social media, one deals with book keeping, one deals more with the public – that kind of thing.”

Coming together has helped with exchange of information, too. The Scottish weather stresses the leaf to bring out the flavor. Sometimes the tea plants don’t behave as an evergreen; they behave as deciduous and lose their leaves and then we wait for 2nd flush. These are some of the problems that the ladies share. “Being organic, we share ways in which we deal with our insect problems, and the like,” says Nairn.

Whatever stage they are at, it is clear that the Tea Gardens of Scotland and their nine lady tea-farm owners have come a long way in the tea business – and now tea tourists get to enjoy their success.

Nepal’s Immersive Tea Tourism Program

The plants used by The Tea Gardens of Scotland actually come from Nepal. That’s because, by far, the small landlocked Hindu Kingdom is the a prolific source of young cuttings. Nestled between tea giants, India and China, Nepal has benefited from leaf transfer from both these countries but mainly from the Darjeeling district of India.

Having the roughly the same topography and climate as Darjeeling and similar soil, the tea produced in Nepal is of high quality and has a similar flavor profile to the world’s best teas. As a result, most of Nepal’s tea exports end up in India. The Friendship Accord between the two nations, in which no duties or tariffs are levied on products – like tea coupled with the porous border between them – makes bringing tea into India a relatively effortless task.

India has many tea estates that are like mini-towns, where tea is grown and processed. However, in Nepal, this model is not replicated. Small farmers grow tea and then sell the leaf to processing factories, which then manufacture the raw leaf into processed orthodox tea and other variants such as spiced tea. As a result, Nepal tea is much cheaper than Indian tea and less cumbersome to make.

Moreover, while India’s tea tourism focuses on the estate and bungalow experience, Nepal’s tea tourism experience is vastly different with people actually staying on farms and making tea themselves.

Nishchal (Nish) Banskota, who is a 2nd generation tea farmer based in New York City, but who makes frequent trips to Nepal, organizes what he calls an “immersive” tea tour, which is much more than a mere vacation. He set up a company called Nepal Tea Collective to market and sell Nepal tea, mainly in North America.

How the tours came about is rather interesting: Banskota, who was just out of college, had previously only sold online, and had decided to try B2B forums and trade shows like World Tea Expo. “I started the company,” he says, “with $200 and a bunch of credit cards and started going to trade shows to try to establish this brand that nobody had ever heard of.”

He had a passionate desire to build his tea brand that is grown in Nepal, and he wanted to grow his business – but had hardly any money. Using Kickstarter, the popular internet fundraising site, in 2017, he started raising money for the business in a more orderly fashion. However, being below his $30,000 target, he decided to apply some “out of the box” thinking. “I posted that if anyone pays me $5,000, I’ll take them to Nepal and give them a tour of our farm,” he says.

Banskota never expected people to put up so much money to come to a country few have even heard of – but the idea was a hit.

He started with four pledges and this was almost more than he could handle, because he had never organized a tour before – other than some volunteer trips to Nepal he had organized in college. People were obviously curious about the small farms in Nepal and how they produce tea, as well as the rich cultural heritage of this small unique country.

Banskota was so grateful that these people had helped him exceed his funding target that he wanted to give them something special. Cognizant that one could go online and book a Nepal tour with a travel agent, he wanted to offer something that those in the travel industry could not. And this came in the form of tea tours that were totally immersive in the activities planned and the locations where people would stay. He wanted the trips to be not only about seeing things and taking pictures, but doing things and being part of the tea cultivation and manufacturing experience. He wanted to give people an experience they could remember for the rest of their lives.

It just so happened that a friend of Banskota’s was getting married in Nepal’s capital, Katmandu, during the first tour. So, he arranged for the four tourists to attend the wedding and observe the rituals. Hindu weddings are multiple day affairs involving song, dance and, of course, food. So as a kick-off for the tour, the event was grand. The guests even wore traditional garb as they sang and danced with the other revelers. It didn’t matter that they were strangers, the family made them feel like honoured guests.

Once on the Banskota’s farm, guests were less supervised. Banskota was all too aware that the way tea tours are managed in Nepal are very constrained in that the tourists only get to see what the managers want them to see. Banskota didn’t want that for his tour, so he told guests they could roam as they pleased.

The following day, early in the morning Banskota took the tea tourists into the fields to pluck tea. They were shown the proper technique and carried their own baskets as thought they were tea workers, themselves. It was a tiring experience but by the end of the plucking period, they had baskets full of their own leaf – that they would make into tea, themselves.

For safety concerns and because the amount of tea plucked was too small for the machines, Banskota decided to show the tourists how to make hand-made tea. The first day was taken in the withering process, and then the technique of hand-rolling was shown to them. Following this, a small cabinet oven was used to fire the teas, and the four were shown how to sort the teas before bagging.

By the end of this two-day process, the tourists had made bags of their own tea. Now, it wasn’t stuff that could sell at auction, but it was theirs and they could relive the experience each time they took a sip of the tea. As someone who has made his own tea, this writer can attest that this kind of experience can’t be replicated. Feeling a sense of joy at the accomplishment of having made something natural and healthy and flavorful that could be enjoyed again and again is something truly unique in our urbanized existence.

When Banskota observed their reaction to making their own tea, he realized he had hit upon something truly rare.

On another tour, a chef participated and helped make the simple Nepali meals that the tour members had.

The accommodations at the farms are homestays, though Banskota is working on setting-up glass houses for tourists on the farm that he hopes will be ready in 2024, so it’s not nearly five-star. But being welcomed into someone’s home is a different experience that can’t be replicated by a high-end establishment.

By 2022 (with a hiatus for COVID-19) Banskota was dealing with 50 people wanting to take part in the tours – too many people to accommodate in a single trip. That year, Banskota went to Nepal seven times for tea tours.

The tours are 10 days. There are two days in Katmandu where tourists can soak in Nepali culture, and it includes two home-cooking sessions at Banskota’s co-founder’s house. It shows people what houses look like in Katmandu and how to cook dishes such as momos – a dumpling with sauce –which are the most popular snack in Nepal, China and North Eastern India. They are also shown how to cook full meals.

Food is central to understanding a culture. Recognizing this, Banskota’s kitchen tourism in Katmandu helps bring people closer to Nepal before taking them out to the farms.

They head to the farms on the third day, which now includes not only Banskota’s farms but other farms that have chosen to participate. This exposes people to a variety of teas and tea-making philosophies.

Before making it to the farms, Banskota takes the tourists to Sonam Lama who is a master tea maker and teacher of tea-makers, and he has a small factory where he teaches tea-making. Sonam Lama associates tea with many aspects of Zen Buddhism, so he teaches not only tea making but also the philosophy of tea. People from all over the world – apart from Banskota’s tours – come to learn tea making from Sonam Lama.

The next two days are made at homestays, where tea is introduced in a different form as an ingredient in dishes such as tea-smoked chicken. These homes also are sites where hand-made teas are made.

The following day, they go to a cheese factory where a fermented Nepali cheese is made that is tea-smoked. These activities demonstrate how tea can be used in activities that move beyond being a only a beverage.

Next, they go to a tea farm that was started by a former plucker. This is a small farm but is indicative of the American dream being active even in a far-flung place like Nepal. This is capped off by a visit to Banskota’s farm, where after a day’s rest, people go into the fields to pluck and make their own tea. His garden manager is the only female garden factory in Nepal, and she guides the process. Now, tourists are involved not only in making their own teas but in helping to make the commercial teas where they are able to, in supervised fashion, interact with the machines. Tourists can try various types of teas in the process.

The next day, Banskota takes the tourists on a hike through the farm in which he narrates his family history, which started from five tea bushes and multiplied to the grand farm that plays hosts to the tourists.

At the end, Banskota gets tourists to do a blind tea tasting to determine which tea was the best. This gives the opportunity to determine how better tea is made from the same leaf through the procedures used in processing.

Customized elements are incorporated for the group like biking and art and other activities that help bring Nepal closer to the tourists.

Banskota believes his immersive tea tourism is central to keeping orthodox tea manufacture vibrant not only in Nepal but also in Darjeeling. Tea farms and estates the world over experience many challenges spearheaded by climate change, and the best way to make people aware of the challenges is for them to experience them, firsthand. Also, immersive tea tourism demonstrates how much labor, time, science and artistry goes into making a cup of tea.

When people understand the challenges and the process of making tea, all types of orthodox tea may fetch better prices. This is central to keeping the tea worker on the planation because without economic improvement, the next generation of tea plantation labor will simply look for jobs in the city.

Like Banskota, many tea barons feel that the orthodox tea that is made in north eastern India and Nepal is undervalued, and tourism is one way to assign that value to the tea.

Right now, it’s mainly the tea fanatics who are involved in the tea tours, but it is likely that Banskota’s marketing prowess will help him to expand beyond this niche market. Tea education is central to making it a more accessible and popular beverage in the west. It’s already the most popular beverage worldwide after water – but tea aficionados look to the day when tea will truly challenge coffee as a beverage of choice in North America and Western Europe.

Whether one is in Scotland or Nepal – on the opposite sides of the globe – people are growing tea, making tea, and marketing their cultivars to a population that is increasingly looking to imbibe a healthy invigorating beverage.

This is all part of a tea lifestyle that is growing globally, and will only continue to escalate, despite the challenges, as more people make tea part of their lives.

To learn more about The Tea Gardens of Scotland and the farms tours, visit To learn about tea tours in Nepal, visit

SB Veda is the pen name for Sujoy Bhattacharyya, who is a British/Canadian writer based in Kolkata. Born in London and raised in the U.K. and Canada, the award-winning writer and editor’s work has also been published in The Independent, The Guardian, the Ottawa Citizen, The Global Calcuttan and Pragati International. He has a longstanding connection to Darjeeling, where he tries to visit once a year, and he’s currently working on a book about a Darjeeling tea garden, which is expected release in 2023.

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