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Of Tea & Tea Estates

The mist will almost always be swirling at your feet, it’s the lushest green that your eyes have see, somehow always fresh and moist, and snuggled cozily near the western borders of God’s Own Country, the name is Munnar. Munnar tourism has always been a flourishing venture, with travelers and holiday makers arriving in hordes.

And then there are the tea plantations that Munnar is oh so popular for. They are pretty much everywhere, layers and layers of tea estates as far as the eye can see. Tata Tea owned a lot of tea plantations in Munnar a decade ago. Sometime, in the first half of 2005, they decide to move out of Munnar and focus on their branded tea business. The Tata Tea Museum still remains one of the most popular places to see in Munnar.

Tata Tea Museum Munnar

Enter The Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company Private Limited (KDHP). With its 7 extensive gardens covering approximately 24,000 hectares, the company is today the largest tea corporate in South India with an annual production of 21 million kg of tea.

Tea Estate Stays

Following in the footsteps of home stays and farm stays, staying at a tea estate can be fun. The Kannan Devan bungalows are quite popular. These, all major tea companies have opened up to tourists. The awesome thing about these bungalows is that considering most of these tea plantations were initiated by the British, they are built in the typical English country cottage style. Well maintained heritage bungalows reminiscent of a laid-back lifestyle long forgotten, perfect for the stressed, pollution breathing city dweller.

These estate stays also provide tours that enable guests to see the entire tea production process from tea leaf picking to packaging. The tea leaves are handpicked by women when they are ready. The picture of a tea picker is something we’ve all been familiar with since childhood, tea basket over the back, heads covered and smiling. Tea leaves picked by hand are of higher quality than those picked by machines. The tea leaves are left to wilt after they are picked, to remove excess water. The leaves loose close to a quarter of their weight in water during withering. The process is also important in promoting the breakdown of leaf proteins into free amino acids and increases the availability of freed caffeine, both of which change the taste of the tea.

The leaves are then macerate and left for oxidation in climate-controlled rooms. Different teas are oxidized to different levels. Kill-green or shāqīng is done to stop the tea leaf oxidation at a desired level. The tea leaves are moderately heated, thus deactivating their oxidative enzymes and removing unwanted scents in the leaves, without damaging the flavour of the tea.

The damp tea leaves are then rolled to be formed into wrinkled strips, by hand or using a rolling machine which causes the tea to wrap around itself. This rolling action also causes some of the sap, essential oils, and juices inside the leaves to ooze out, which further enhances the taste of the tea. The process is finished off with drying. Some teas, especially green varieties require an aging or curing process. Bitter and harsh tastes become sweet and mellow through fermentation by age or dampness.

And that’s what your morning cup of tea goes through! Green tea is not really popular in Munnar. The best Munnar holiday package is one that comes with a tea estate!

As the newest member of the content team, Shivangi Rajendran comes from the world of professional dancing. With a passion for travel and a flair for writing, the Masters in Mass Communication is just an added advantage. A gypsy at heart, she doesn’t believe in planning and is always ready to pack her bags and leave.

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