Sabah is most definitely the land of tea drinkers. As common as oxygen are these words that you hear from all the tea lovers, Chinese Teh Ping (Iced Chinese Tea), Teh-C Ping (Iced Milk Tea), Lemon Teh (Lemon Tea), Teh Tarik (Pulled Tea) all these are commonly ordered beverages among locals. And a common source for them – Sabah Tea Garden.
“Tea drinking is definitely part of our culture, and it fits well into our laid-back lifestyle.”
Sabah Tea Garden is the largest commercial tea plantation in Borneo since 1978 and is the only organic tea farm in Borneo. The tea leaves from its 2,480-hectare plantation are 100% pesticide free. They have a bouquet of eight flavours of tea, namely, ginger, cinnamon, pandan, agarwood, geranium, lemongrass, tongkat ali, and misai kucing (cat’s whiskers). I tried their new Vanilla tea but I guess I preferred the Cinnamon with milk the most.
But this cool highland is not just a treat for tea lovers, it’s also a vacation retreat. Situated 692 Metres above sea level, this cool highland is an ideal place to beat the heat of the cities.
Restaurant and “Tea” Cuisines
Tea is the soul of the cuisine at the restaurant at Sabah Tea garden. They have used it wonderfully in various dishes like their chicken soup cooked with vegetables and young tea leaves, and one-of-a-kind dessert, tea pancake with honey, tea waffles, a special tea infused ice cream and delicious Banana fritters.
Local must-try dishes at Sabah Tea Garden and Resort
Many more local dishes are also available at the Sabah Tea restaurant, amongst which are Fish with Bambangan (this Fruit only found in Sabah), Tuhau Beef (Sabah’s Wild Ginger Beef), Sabah Tea Black Pepper Lamb, Butter Prawns and Soy Sauce Free Range Chicken. I washed it off with a milky iced tea. Breakfast meant soy noodles and a wonderful flat noodle stew laced with seafood and mushrooms. Yes, the food though unique is wholesome and delicious.
Photo-ops for the Insta-slaves
One highlight of the restaurant is a huge metal teapot where you can hang small padlocks with names of your loved ones to keep the love intact forever. The I LOVE SABAH TEA sculpture proves to be a perfect place for pictures as does the huge yellow photo frame created with Mount Kinabalu in the backdrop.
Apart from this, just the lovely tea plants stretched out before you with the backdrop of the mountains and the rolling clouds are absolutely picture-perfect.
For an “anti-oxidizing” trip by fresh air and tea, I would recommend you to spend a night or two at Sabah Tea Garden. They have two types of accommodations:
- Longhouse: 25 rooms (triple sharing), can fit 75 people at a time. 14 shower rooms, 6 toilets.
- English Cottages (4 units): a total of 16 rooms (1 queen bed + 1 twin bed), can host 48 people. Air-conditioning, Hot Shower and TV available
The cottages at Sabah Tea Garden are named after colourful personalities from Sabah’s colonial past. The cottage where I stayed was named after Lofty Hodges, an Australian hero who rescued the survivors of the Death March during World War II.
Sabah Tea has created a good environment to create a rustic experience. They have beautiful gardens with flowers and herbs, decorative and colourful ornaments, a small fish pond and rabbits in the plantation.
Not to be missed is the sunrise which seems magical as the sky changes colour and the mist makes way providing a stunning view of the majestic Mount Kinabalu and the surrounding Kinabalu Park. The experience is ethereal and amazing. It’s as if time stops to let you be enveloped into the magical soul of the mountain as if stands watching you while you can’t get enough of it.
Tea drinking has over 3,000 years of history, so it’s good to know more about this most consumed beverage, after water. Sabah Tea Garden offers “The Journey of the Tea” tour for visitors who want to learn how tea is processed.
Those who participate in the Tea Adventure will get to harvest, process and sample the various teas from their 1,000 acres tea plantation. They will provide you with a native cane hat and wakid (basket), then give you a short brief on the right way to pluck the tea leaves and buds.
A surprising fact I learnt was that an experienced tea picker has the capacity to collect about 32 Kg of tea in a day. Which is enough to make 14,000 cups of tea!
Their staff are very keen to share their tea knowledge. They also conduct tea talks for you to gain a better understanding of tea culture. Who knew appreciation and enjoyment of drinking tea will go up to the next level.
Sabah Legend Tour
Kadazandusun is the largest indigenous group of Sabah. Their legend says Nunuk Ragang is where Kadazandusun people originated, and everything begins with a father and his 3 sons, who later split and migrated to different parts of Sabah and formed three main tribes (namely, Rungus, Kadazan, Dusun).
A quaint place to explore at Sabah Tea is their Rungus longhouse. They have beautifully arranged the traditional clothes, baskets, handicrafts, farming tools, hat, mats, beads and musical instrument displayed in the hallway, to introduce the tourists to the diverse and interesting culture of each of the tribes.
Sabah Tea garden estate has a forest, a hill and a river flowing adjacent to it. These are well maintained, pristine and provide a wonderful experience of nature for those who want to spend time there. Many varieties of birds and insects are also found at Sabah Tea Garden.
Sabah Tea Garden is also an ideal place to organise corporate off-sites and team building vacations as they are able to organize various group activities, treks and games in their premises. A wonderful retreat for all ages and types of people, Sabah Tea Garden deserves a visit for sure.
“Tea drinkers take a break; coffee drinkers need a break.”
Note from TE staff: We have visited the beautiful region of twice (once just did not seem enough!) with teams of writers and bloggers. Click here to read the various first-hand accounts of the people we took to visit Sabah, the place that is fondly called ‘The Land below the Wind’.