Munnar is a favourite and a must visit place for many who visit the South Indian State of Kerala. Being on of the highest points in the Western Ghats, Munnar has some very interesting facts that not many know, it is home for the highest peak in South India, Anamudi located at the Eravikulam National Park. Apart from that, Munnar is home to the highest organic tea plantation is the world, the Kolukkumalai Tea Factory. A factory built in 1930s by the British, which still follows the orthodox method of processing tea. The Machinery is still the one brought from England and has all the trademark on them. It is believed that, the higher the elevation of the Tea Plantation, the more would be the flavor of the tea. This time our agenda would be to capture Kolukkumalai with Josin’s 4X4 Thar on a off road expedition.
The Kolukkumalai Tea Estate is a five hundred acre estate of which two hundred acres are under plantation. The Estate is close to Suryanelli in Munnar, from where you would require to take a Jeep to go to the Tea Factory. None other than a Jeep can take you to the Estate Factory atop 8000 feet above the sea level. It just a single narrow road to the top where either a Jeep or a tractor can effortlessly move. The roads are rugged and full of round rolling stones that slip the Jeep tires. we are talking about just six kilometers to reach the top of the mountain, but trust me you are going to take almost more than an hour to reach the Kolukkumalai Tea factory. Enroute you have some of the most panoramic views one could have of the tea gardens of Munnar. You can see the horizon and that slight curve that reminds you the earth is still round ;-). Make sure you have a strong spine and you really are young at heart. the hired Jeeps and the drivers would be used to the Uphill Jeep trek, but for you it is going to be the first time, so hold on tight.
The factory was built in the 1930s by the British and follows an orthodox method of processing tea. This factory is not about making tea in large quantities, moreover they are into producing the most flavorsome tea one could have in the whole world. Most tea production in the world follows the modern CTC (crush-tear-curl) method which is more mechanized and faster in production. The Orthodox method of tea production starts from Withering the leaves, Rolling it, further weaving, after which the weaved fine leaves are kept for fermenting and oxidizing, finally drying and grading into different sets. It is packaged and Exported! Am not going to explain how orthodox tea is made, it is all about going there and getting a real feel of it. if you are a real tea lover the black tea they offer at the end of the factory tour is going tickle your taste buds. The tea estate and factory have altogether got thirty five families working and they will go down hill once in a month, that was what Mani our guide at the factory told us. There is a small store that sells Kolukkumalai tea, you can buy them, it is not expensive for what it is. Two separate varieties of tea, one for black tea and the other for tea with milk.
The Kolukkumalai tea factory is the prime reason for many to visit the estate, but there are a lot more other things in the agenda. The elevation at which the estate and factory is located makes it a prime center for a lot of view points. The Top station which is altogether on a different route from Munnar town is just the next mountain as the crow flies. The landscape is mind blowing here, the mountains and the tea gardens make it is a superb scenic location, the only concern would be mist which might blanket the whole view. If you are a photography enthusiast, you are going to have endless opportunities to click, make sure you start from Suryanelli by around 0630 AM so that you get to have the best views through the viewfinder along with the rays of the morning golden hours.
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Written by Benjamin John