• Sinna Dorais Bungalows Balance Comfort and Old World Charm

    Sinna Dorais Bungalows - Kadamane Tea Estate
    Sinna Dorais Bungalow. Photo by Preetam Koilpillai
    Narrated tour by Aravinda Anantharaman

    Sinna Dorai is how assistant managers were addressed on turn-of-the-century tea estates in south India: Dorai would have been the manager, and Sinna Dorai loosely translates to ‘small manager.’ At three estates owned by the Murugappa Group – in Sakleshpur (Karnataka), Valparai, and the Nilgiris (Tamil Nadu) – the Assistant Manager’s bungalow has been converted for tourism as the Sinna Dorai’s bungalow. The wives of the current managers manage them. One is at Kadamane Tea Estate, located high in the Western Ghats in Karnataka, India, about 250 kilometers west of Bengaluru. Kadamane was planted nearly a century ago; its bungalows are old, charming, and well-preserved. The interiors have been tastefully restored. The rooms are modern and comfortable but have retained that old-world charm, and that’s a delicate balance. The estate offers a glimpse into a way of life that is no longer relevant but reveals a vibrant, fascinating history worth recording and preserving. There’s no restaurant, just a kitchen and a dining room where you go for mealtimes like the Sinna Dorais, sharing hearty meals made with local produce and delicious bread. The vistas are boundless, and the forest streams are lovely to explore. It is a perfect stop, a great example of tea tourism done right because it’s indulgent without being excessive. – Aravinda Anantharaman

    • Caption: Tea time on the lawn at Sinna Dorais Bungalows
    Sinna Dorais Twin Cottages, Kadamane Tea Estate, Karnataka, India

    A Stay at Scenic Kadamane Tea Estate

    By Aravinda Anantharaman

    If you drive 250 kilometers west of Bangalore, you reach Sakleshpur, where the coffee country begins. And sitting here amongst the coffee estates is a tea garden called Kadamane. And that itself seemed reason enough to visit. I spent a weekend there recently, and it’s one of the nicest breaks I’ve had. I booked a room at the Sinna Dorai’s Bungalow. So Sinna Dorai is how assistant managers were addressed. Small manager. That’s what it translates to. Venky Muthiah, whose family has owned Kadamane for years, decided to convert the assistant manager’s bungalows and open them out to tourists. He’s done this with two other estates they own in Valparai and the Nilgiris.

    Kadamane was planted nearly a century ago; its bungalows are old and very charming and very well preserved. The interiors have been done very tastefully. The rooms are modern and comfortable but don’t lose that old-world charm. And I think that’s a fine balance they’ve managed to maintain. So there were three Sinna Dorais, so the bungalow itself was large. These really wide verandas go all around, and these are great spaces to lounge in because the views are fantastic. I learned that the Sinna Dorais needed to keep an eye on everything that was going on, whether the gates, the tea sections themselves, or the factories, so the bungalows were strategically located, and you get a 360-degree view of what was going on around you. There’s also a tennis court, probably something assistant managers enjoyed.

    There’s also a pool table, which I don’t think is from the time of the Sinna Dorais. I enjoyed a small library with its old Planter’s Chronicles collection and discovering a story that rivals the Jungle Book. It’s called the Bad Girl of Kadamane, and it features a Sinna Dorai named Angus Hutton, man-eating tigers, and a lost child. And, of course, bears.

    It’s a way of life that’s no longer relevant today because the world of tea is changing. But there is an incredibly rich and fascinating history that is worth recording and preserving.”

    – Aravinda Anantharaman

    It must be said as British that they had a sense of adventure whether facing man-eating tigers or the prospect of creating a large-scale plantation. Standing here, I imagine them arriving at these forested hillsides so far from their home, plotting roads, earmarking sections to cultivate tea, and building a little world. And as I look at the vast expanse and the twisting roads, I try to imagine what an assistant manager would have seen or imagined possible. Sure, it’s a way of life that’s no longer relevant today because the world of tea is changing. But there is an incredibly rich and fascinating history that is worth recording and preserving.

    The room I booked was not one of the planters’ rooms but a cottage just a little away from the main building. And this used to be a post office before. So slightly larger, a little private, and enjoyable. Kadamane spans 7,500 acres, but only 1,000 have been planted with tea. So you see slopes of tea but also generous stretches of the sholas. In the silence – I don’t know much about birds, but you can hear bird songs. I could recognize the jungle fowl. I recognized the incessant hammering of the woodpecker. I also listened to, oddly, the peacock. And once we heard a noise which we later learned was barking deer. We came out quickly and caught a glimpse of it, but then the lorry tramped down the road and sent the deer scurrying into the bushes.

    I also liked that there’s no restaurant, but there’s a kitchen and a dining room, and you go there at mealtimes, just like the Sinna Dorais used to, to eat hearty meals made with delicious local produce. And the idea of Sinna Dorais bungalow is to come here and do nothing, but they also have a few activities. We did a couple of them: one was tea time on the hill. So there’s a Jeep in which we drove up to this hill on the property, but it has amazing views. Piping hot tea had been packed. Crispy hot bajjis had been packed. There were a few deck chairs. So we just sat down, spent a little time, and enjoyed it… it was Tea Time with a View. But that other activity was my favorite because you took the 4×4 and drove into the forest on the property. There was a small clearing. We spent an hour enjoying a stream flowing nearby, surrounded by forest, watching a couple of Malabar giant squirrels gamboling on the tree. And it’s an experience I’ve never had before. And sitting there surrounded by forest, the name Kadamane, which translates to ‘forest home,’ seems so apt.

    The rest of the weekend went into reading a fat murder mystery I was carrying. Wi-Fi and mobile signals are iffy, so you get a digital detox. And because Kadamane is a working estate, we decided to walk down and take a peek at the tea factory. There was a large chimney puffing out smoke. Just like Willy Wonka’s factory, my son said. Inside, on large troughs, the day’s plucking was withering gently, and yesterday’s leaves were making their way into the CTC machines and then being sorted by grades. You get this aroma of fresh tea that you never get anywhere else but in the factory.

    Sinna Dorai’s bungalow is a great example of tea tourism done right because it’s indulgent without being excessive. It’s luxurious yet accessible and affordable. And just, quite simply, a great getaway. The only thing I wish guests would do more is to ask about the tea because but for tea, this would have been a missed experience.


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  • Q|A Ravi Kroesen

    “The perfect cup of tea is one shared with others.” This quote by legendary tea entrepreneur Steven Smith adorns oak paneling of Smith Teamaker’s new café in Portland, Oregon. It’s a café with a tea twist — the plant-based menu features dishes and snacks infused with the company’s premium tea.

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    Teamaker Ravi Kroesen on Smith Teamaker’s new cafe concept.

    Portland's Smith Teamaker Cafe Photo by Andrew Vanasse
    Portland’s Steven Smith Teamaker Café. Photos by Andrew Vanasse.

    A Plant-based Food Café where Tea Reigns Supreme

    The intent of the new café concept, says Smith’s head teamaker Ravi Kroesen, is to “develop foods that reflect our ethos of plants, as well as utilizing tea as an ingredient.” Culinary Director Karl Holl developed the food menu, at the new café working with Kroesen to develop a menu that includes snacks, lattés, and iced concoctions with full meals that demonstrate how tea and food can live in harmony from leaf to cup to plate.

    Jessica Natale Woollard: Beets roasted in jasmine tea; quinoa cooked in Sencha; croissants filled with peppermint tea-infused chocolate. These all sound divine. What are these culinary delights?

    Ravi Kroesen: These are items we have started offering in our new plant-based café up on Northwest 23rd in Portland, Oregon. The concept is to further being a plant-based company, to further the concept in terms of developing foods that really reflect our ethos of plants, as well as utilizing tea as an ingredient.

    Jessica: What flavor combinations of tea and food delighted you the most?

    Ravi: I like the sheep’s cheese, sourced locally, used to make our white petal cheese. We blended in our white petal tea, a floral, slightly fruity white tea, and it creates this incredible new experience.

    Fat, as you may know, works in this process called enfleurage where it takes on aromas very easily. The fat and the cheese brings in all the flavors you find in drinking the tea, so they’re expressed very cleanly. We use that process in a couple different dishes. There’s one in a bowl that is a delight to eat.

    Interior Smith Teamaker Cafe
    Interior Smith Teamaker Café

    The sheep’s cheese comes from a local partner, Black Sheep Creamery. Karl Holl, our culinary director, was very specific in terms of working with local partners, so chocolate, salt, baked goods, those kinds of things, were specifically sought out to have local partners.

    Jessica: I imagine the process of developing the menu was filled with experimentation in your lab?

    Ravi: Karl spearheaded everything and worked with my team in the Tea Lab to fine tune a lot of the concepts. He already had some of the dishes worked out, but there were some that needed some fine tuning, and with our help — guiding and offering suggestions on how to best achieve the final outcome of a really wonderful dish — we worked together to create a wonderful menu. My team was integral, but certainly Karl is the genius in this whole process and the driver.

    Jessica: You just opened the café a few weeks ago, but can you share what menu item has been a popular choice so far? And what you think it is about that item that’s attracting customers?

    Ravi: We have a turmeric noodle bowl. Turmeric is such a recognizable ingredient; we’ve seen a rise in consumption in turmeric-based teas over the last five years. There is an understanding in the consumer consciousness on a broader scale now for turmeric being a beneficial and healthy ingredient. Leading with turmeric as part of the overall makeup of that noodle dish allows people to immediately get what they’re buying. The popularity of that dish shows that people who are coming to buy food at Smith, as well as drink teas, are health conscious as well as looking for new and exciting experiences.

    Jessica: What is your personal favorite item on this lovely menu? This is your chance to persuade us all to visit Portland!

    Ravi: I really do like the masala chai spiced cinnamon sugar bun. If you peel off the layers and eat them bit by bit, you’ll experience how well the masala chai is built into that baked good.

    I love to pair the morning bun with our black lavender latté, which is brewed using an espresso machine, or what we like to call a “teaspresso” machine. The machine’s high pressure combined with the heat creates a large amount of dissolved and suspended solids in the brew, which gives a much thicker, richer experience. That was the intention of espresso machines from the beginning, to create this quality of brew that you can’t quite get from brewing in other ways. We use a little bit of oat milk to top off the black lavender latté, and it is such a delight. It pairs so well with the masala chai morning button.

    This interview has been edited and condensed.

    Smith Teamaker Cafe
    Smith Teamaker Café

    Steven Smith Teamaker Café

    The café is located in Portland’s Northwest 23rd district, the same neighborhood where the company was founded in 2009 by the late teamaker Steven Smith.

    ? Jessica Natale Woollard

    Smith Teamaker Logo

    500 NW 23rd Avenue Portland, OR 97210
    (503) 206-7451

    Open 9am – 5pm daily

    Tasting Room
    (503) 719-8752
    (800) 624-9531


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  • The Charm of Vancouver’s Chinatown

    The announcement in 1984 that the British colony of Hong Kong would be formally transferred to China in 1997,  led to an exodus of 335,646 emigrants many of whom made Vancouver their new home. Today a second surge is building as new visa applications rose by more than 20% in 2020 to 10,800 applicants for Canadian residency. In the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, 42% of residents list either Cantonese or Mandarin as their first language. Retailers benefitted as demand swelled for authentic Chinese tea, leading widespread popularity and the expansion of Vancouver’s Chinatown, now the third largest Chinatown in North America.

    Listen here:

    Jessica Natale Woollard takes listeners on a virtual tour of Vancouver’s Chinatown

    Millennium Gate Vancouver Chinatown
    Millennium Gate, Vancouver Chinatown

    Millennium Gate | Commons

    The Charm of Vancouver’s Chinatown

    By Jessica Woollard

    In 1981, Kwok Sun Cheung, an immigrant from Hong Kong, opened the first premium teashop in recent memory in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Canada’s West Coast.

    Catering primarily to immigrants from China, Mr. Cheung chose Vancouver’s Chinatown for the location of his shop. Now a National Historic Site, Vancouver’s Chinatown spans around six blocks and is located a short walk from Vancouver Harbor and the cauldron from the 2010 Winter Olympic games. It’s the third-largest Chinatown in North America, after New York and San Francisco.

    Olivia Chan, Mr. Cheung’s daughter, now runs the teashop, called Treasure Green Tea Company. The shop is one of two premium loose leaf tea purveyors in Vancouver Chinatown. The second shop, called simply The Chinese Tea Shop, is a six-minute walk from Treasure Green. The shop and opened in 2004.

    Tour of the tea shops: Treasure Green Tea Company

    Our tour begins at Treasure Green Tea Company on East Georgia Street.

    Upon entering the modern storefront, you’ll sense immediately the vibe is east meets west. There is minimalistic décor accented with old finishes to keep with tradition and Mr. Cheung’s legacy. Olivia says it’s important the shop is appealing to modern customers — maybe people new to tea — but that it also not lose its strong tie to tradition.

    Treasure Green Tea Company
    Treasure Green Tea Company

    Here’s how she’s accomplishing that blend of old and new:

    Near the back of the shop is a black, sleek table with white benches, used for tea education and conversation. Adjacent to the table is a wall of white pigeonhole shelving. It’s a very modern, clean look until you examine the items on display in each of the pigeon holes more carefully: there are earth-colored terracotta teapots, with an old-world feel, alternating alternate with modern ceramics.

    Old meets new again in the way Treasure Green makes use of tea canisters in the decor. Behind the sleek main counter, you’ll see wooden furniture on which rests a conservative selection of canisters with crisp, cream labels. On the labels, is calligraphy in black and red ink. The crispness of the printed labels gives those canisters a very modern feel.

    But across from that main counter, you’ll see older looking canisters with red labels. Those labels feature Mr. Cheung’s hand-drawn calligraphy. They are the original canisters from when the shop opened in 1981, and they are placed in a few areas of the shop as well as in a memorabilia space, detailing the shop’s history.

    Olivia also honors tradition through the tea leaves she sells. Many are purchased from farmers her father started working with in the 1980s. Just like Olivia is second generation, some of the tea farmers she works with are also second generation.

    I asked Olivia if it’s important to nurture the relationship her family has had with tea farmers over the years. Here’s what she told me:

    “Absolutely, it’s like any other relationship. You need to keep it alive and connected. It means a lot to them for someone to come from abroad and say hello,” she says.

    Ultimately, Olivia wants to connect her customers at Treasure Green with the best, premium Chinese teas she can source. “Some people might come in and say, ‘I’m trying to replace my coffee in the morning,’ and we will suggest some tea that a little bit heavier flavor and with a higher caffeine content,” says Olivia. “Some people might come in and say, I want some green tea and then you need to understand why they’re drinking green tea. For example, some green tea can be very loaded with antioxidants. So it depends what benefits they want to be getting from the beverage.”

    To ensure the teas she sells are high-quality and pure, Olivia examines how clean the tea is and how it’s handcrafted. She also looks at the flavor — no pesticides, which she says you can taste — smoothness, durability (numbers of brews), sweetness and the after-taste.

    Tour of the tea shops: The Chinese Tea Shop

    Once Olivia and her staff have helped you select the right tea for you, leave the shop heading west, stroll four blocks on Main Street, then turn left on East Pender. Walk another 250 meters. When you see bright red awnings at the corner of East Pender and Columbia Street, you’ve arrived at The Chinese Tea Shop.

    The Chinese Tea Shop
    The Chinese Tea Shop

    Like Mr. Cheung, owner Daniel Liu is from Hong Kong; he immigrated to Canada in 1997.

    The feel of The Chinese Tea Shop is traditional in the best way. The shop features many shelving units packed with items — teawares, teacakes, canisters, and all the items you need to prepare tea using the Chinese method — Gong Fu Cha, meaning Tea with Great Skill. You’ll find tea scoops, trays, gaiwan.

    The furniture in the shop is made of rich wood, many pieces coming from China, adding to the traditional feel of the shop.

    It’s a place where it feels right to drink aged tea dust kept in an antique tin receptacle, steeped in water from an embossed cast iron kettle.

    Daniel, like Olivia, sources his high-quality premium teas selectively. He travels to China yearly to meet his contacts and sample teas in person. Relationships, he writes on his website, “are essential to procuring the best tea.”

    After visits to Treasure Green and the Chinese Tea Shop, your mind will be full of wonderful information about tea, and, importantly, your palate will be activated, delighted by the premium teas available in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

    Related: Wikipedia

    227 East Georgia Street
    Vancouver, BC V6A 1Z6

    (604) 687-4181


    Treasure Green Tea Company
    Treasure Green Tea Company

    101 E Pender St
    Vancouver, BC V6A 1T6

    (604) 633-1322


    The Chinese Tea Shop
    The Chinese Tea Shop

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