Distinct Places to Visit in Munnar : Kolukkumalai Tea Factory
"Teatime is a time to slow down, pull back and appreciate our surroundings". - Letitia Baldrige
Munnar is a favourite, and a must visit place for many who visit the South Indian State of Kerala. Being one of the highest points in the Western Ghats, Munnar has some, very impressive facts that not many know. It is home to 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 in the world; the Kolukkumalai Tea Factory. A Factory built in the 1930's by the British, which follows the conventional method of processing Tea. The Machinery used 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, the flavour of the tea. This time our agenda would be to capture Kolukkumalai with Josin’s 4X4 Thar, on an off-road expedition. The first stop would be the 'Kolukkumalai viewpoint
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. Nothing other than a Jeep can take you to the Estate Factory, atop 8000 feet, above the sea level. It is just a single narrow road to the top, where only a Jeep or a tractor can effortlessly move. The Roads are bumpy and full of round, rolling stones, that slip through the Jeep tyres. We are talking about just six kilometres, away from 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 are young at heart. The hired Jeeps and the drivers are quite accustomed 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 1930's, 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 flavoursome tea, one could have in the whole world. Most of the tea production in the world follows the modern CTC (crush-tear-curl) method, which is more mechanized and faster in production. The Orthodox approach, of tea production, starts from withering the leaves, rolling it, and further weaving. The weaved fine leaves, are kept for fermenting and oxidizing, and finally drying and grading into different sets. It is then packaged and exported.
I 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 true tea lover, the black tea they offer at the end of the factory tour is going to tickle your taste buds. The Tea Estate and factory, have altogether got thirty-five families working and they will go downhill 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 on the agenda. The elevation at which the Estate and Factory are located makes it a prime centre for a lot of viewpoints. 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 a superb scenic location. The only concern would be the 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 at around 6.30 a.m, 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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