World’s Highest Organic Tea Garden

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate (Idduki)

If You are cold, TEA will warm You. If You are heated, Tea will cool You. If You are depressed, Tea will cheer You. If You are excited, Tea will calm You. These were the words that welcome you at this old hidden tea factory. Even though tea was something the Britishers introduced us to, but here in India we have made it our very own with a numerous number of additions to our cup of tea! It is the most popular drink in our country and we are the 2nd largest producer of tea after China. Once you are in Munnar, you can’t help but notice that you are surrounded by rolling hills with tea plantations from the late 19th century. But the real adventure begins when you decide to visit the tea factory by waking up at 4:30 am and hiring Mahindra 4×4 jeeps to take you up the estate for an amazing breath taking visit of this factory along with the rising sun and the clouds playing hide and seek with the western ghats.

Early morning pickup from outside our hotel when it was completely dark but as we went along the off road path, the blue hour set in along with the umpteen number of bumps on the way to the estate. The wet winding roads had its own unique feel, not to forget the cold wind blowing.

Our driver was one with a lot of experience on those curvy and bumpy roads. He had been doing this daily for many years now. He stopped at the view point but unfortunately to my disappointment the clouds had taken cover. He still continued with his filmy references and stories about the place we were at.

Finally, I saw hope in the form of some sun rays and the clouds settling down a bit.. The view was truly breathtaking and then made the so far bumpy ride and waking up so early in the morning, well worth it.

My ride in Mahindra classic 4×4 through the off roads.. can’t forget the blaring music from the film Roja that he made us listen to. I must confess it went perfectly with the drive.

After almost an hour and half of driving with a couple of stops, we arrived at the factory site.. The clouds had settled in the valley and looked like a birds nest from afar. The building with the green roof is the factory and the one on the right is a school for the local kids.

Inside the factory, there were different departments and floors along with this very peculiar smell of the gunny bags and dried tea leaves. It was interesting how they showed us around and then switched on a couple of machines to show us how they work. After the tour, I decided to try some of the locally brewed tea that they served at the factory.They were selling the tea leaves as well but I decided to just stick to the freshly made tea.

I made a quick visit to the school and decided to say hello to the kids over there.. They had mixed feeling to see me standing there waving at them with a big camera hanging over my neck. To my surprise, some of them even started crying. So, I took just a few pictures and offered the kids some chocolates and snacks that I was carrying with me.

Rolling hills of Munnar with tea plantation and the Kundala lake in the background. The scenic views in Munnar are extremely soothing to naked eyes. The greenery all around goes straight to your heart chakra.

Here are a few shots of how the local women pick the tea leaves, pack it in bags and then transport it to the factory. The women seemed to be enjoying this routine of theirs. Mostly all pickers were women, many barefoot. They work six days a week practically in all weather conditions earning the minimum labour wages.

Tea leaf picker busy at her job paused to strike a pose for me even while it drizzles during the day with an impish smile.

One of the many catholic churches in Munnar. I came across this one while on my way back from the tea garden. There seemed to be a festival going on and…

Written by Namit Khanna

Date: 12th June 2020