Once my time in Kerala’s west coast town of Kochi had come to an end, my French travel buddy and I boarded a local open-air bus from Kottayam enroute to the beautiful hill station of Kodaikanal. The journey would take us through the Western Ghats mountain range that runs parallel to the west coast of the Indian peninsula, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its biological diversity.
We would make one stop enroute, at another small hill station called Munnar known for its extensive tea plantations. The time we would spend in the Western Ghats would offer us welcome respite from the South India heat and humidity, part of the reason these hill station towns are popular with foreign and local travellers.
I love eating the local foods where ever I travel, especially street food where the locals dine. India is great for this as every town offers a variety of street vendors offering delicious affordable local meals. I wasn’t disappointed on my evening arrival into Munnar as near the bus stop there was a street vendor that was buzzing with locals all enjoying the local South Indian Cuisine of parotha, dosa aloo masala and other curries.
Indians love a cup of chai (tea) usually with a good helping of sugar, not surprisingly then that India is the second largest tea producer in the world. Unlike during the days of British rule in India and the East India Company, most of the production today is consumed within India. However, during the 19th and 20th century large tracts of hill country habitats were converted for mass tea production.
On the day we arrived into Munnar we had passed a number of tea plantations, one within 30 minutes walk of Munnar that was owned by the TATA Company, it has now been sold to the plantations employees and is called the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company (KDHP). So on our first day in Munnar we made our way there and the intrepid traveller in us, not thinking anything of it, began exploring the plantation (in hindsite that may have been a bit cheeky?). We were in lucky that the tea pickers were out in the fields plucking the tea for production. I think they were as fascinated by our presence as we were with theirs! With perfect light and the refreshing temperatures of the hill country we had a magical day exploring the plantation and watching the plucking, collection and weighing of the freshly picked tea!
If you're a tea lover, or just a lover of spectacular vistas of green rolling countryside, then don't miss visiting Munnar’s tea plantations, you can even learn more about the history and process of tea production at KDHP’s Tea Museum located at their Nullatanni Estate, which is just a five minute drive from Munnar Town.