Tea forms an integral part of Mauritian culture, where it not only kick starts the day in the morning, but is also served for Mauritian teatime and for guests. Often made with milk and sugar, black tea is by far the most popular tea on the island (far more popular than coffee), where the average consumption of tea is a kilo per person. Green tea and herbal teas are also consumed and produced on the island, though it is not as popular as black tea.
Locally produced tea is also gradually gaining an international market, with Reunion, South Africa, France and China being major importers. Bois Cheri, Corson and La Chartreuse are among the most famous and largest local Mauritian tea producers.
History of Tea in Mauritius
In the year 1760, Mauritius was introduced to the tea plant known as Camellia Sinensis, by a French priest, Father Galloys. It was planted on a large scale by the famous botanist Pierre Poivre, but only as a museum plant. Once the British arrived on the island (during the 19th century), Robert Farquhar, the Governor of Mauritius, encouraged commercial tea cultivation, however when he left the island, the project was abandoned.
Almost half a century later, Sir John Pope Hennessy revived the local interest in tea cultivation and plantations were soon established in the areas of Nouvelle France and Chamarel. As more and more people became interested in tea cultivation, there was an increase in the number of private plantations and tea factories.
By the end of World War II, 5 tea factories had been established and about 850 hectares of land were dedicated to tea plantations. The first large-scale local tea plantation was set up under the name of the Bois Cheri Company by Messrs Bour and Le Breton at the end of the 19th century.
The Tea Route
Mauritians’ passion for tea has never been dwindled, and as visitors you can explore this zeal by following the Tea Route.
The Tea Route offers a culinary and cultural journey into the history of tea production in Mauritius- a chance not to be missed. The route follows the journey of tea at three iconic sites in Mauritius, Le Domaine des Aubineaux, Le Domaine de Bois Chéri and Le Domaine de Saint-Aubin.
Domaine des Aubineaux
The first stop on the island’s famed Tea Route is the Domaine des Aubineaux . This mansion, built in 1872, is perched on a picturesque garden, with neatly trimmed lawns, exotic plants and a 5-century old Colophane tree. The mansion belonged to the Guimbeau family- a family who made their fortune off the tea trade, but after the last resident passed away in 1999, it was converted to a museum.
During your guided visit, you can visit various rooms, including the previous residents’ bedrooms, living room, formal dining area and veranda. You will also get to discover the mansion’s antique furniture dating back to the 17th century, along with a collection of vintage photographs.
Bois Cheri Factory and Restaurant
The second stop on the Tea Route is Bois Cheri, which is not only the largest tea producer in Mauritius but also the first- the factory has been operational since 1892.
Discover the history and the process of tea-making with a guided tour of the factory and the tea plantations. The tea museum also showcases an old train which used to transport tea around the island during the colonial period. Depending on the season, you may even be lucky enough to witness the factory at work- from plant to package.
Tea lovers will have the opportunity to sample the different teas that the factory produces at the Bois Cheri Restaurant, including a number of exotic flavours such as coconut, cardamom and fruity flavours. Overlooking a beautiful, volcanic crater-lake and a wonderful panoramic view of the south coast, the chalet-style restaurant not only offers tea-tasting but also a unique, gastronomic menu inspired by tea.
The Saint Aubin House
The Saint Aubin House is the third and final stop of the Tea Route, serving as an economical landmark of Mauritian history. The colonial house, built in 1819, served as a residence for several sugar estate directors. The house was originally built alongside the factory, but the owner moved it in the 1970s to get a better night’s sleep. The estate no longer produces sugar and has been converted into a museum, rum distillery and nursery garden. The house is now part of the architectural heritage of Mauritius.
The table d’hote restaurant offers the very best of local Creole cuisine, made from local, fresh ingredients. Le Saint Aubin Restaurant is also the best place to discover and enjoy the famous St. Aubin 1819 rum- the estate produces sugarcane which is then processed to make sugar as well as delicious rum.