What is Munnar's specialty
Alexandra reports on her trip through Kerala and describes in this article the wonderful atmosphere in Munnar, where tea plantations cover the hills with a brilliant green. Be inspired by her report and if you feel like discovering the beauty of Kerala for yourself, write to us here and we will help you plan an unforgettable trip!
If you think of tea from India, Darjeeling and Assam, the two large, well-known tea-growing areas in northeastern India, will probably first come to mind. But it is also grown in tea plantations in the south of the country, high up in the mountains on the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The region around Hill Station Munnar, just under four hours' drive from Madurai on one side of the Western Ghats and Kochi on the other, is the largest tea-growing area in South India. And one of the highest in the world - Munnar Bazaar, the main town, lies at over 1,600 m. The tea plantations in the hills around Munnar even extend to up to 2,000 m.
Due to the height, the tea plantations are often shrouded in clouds (Credit: Ravi Pinisetti - Unsplash)
As we fight our way up the Western Ghats from Madurai by car through serpentine roads, we can unfortunately only dream of the fresh mountain air at first. In front of us there is smoke from the exhaust of a decrepit public bus that we can only pass after a daring overtaking maneuver. At our tea stop at the Top Station, the transshipment point for tea from Munnar, he catches up with us again.
Regardless, we then approach our homestay on a secret path, where we will spend the next two days. And you can already guess a little what a green oasis we have ended up in. When we enjoy our first tea on the balcony of the Green Magic Home, an idyllic private house with five beautiful rooms - here in Munnar you drink sweetened cardamon tea without milk - we know: This is what paradise can look like.
The green hills around Munnar offer travelers a quiet oasis away from the usual hustle and bustle
fresh mountain air and hot cardamont tea to warm you up
At our feet there are green carpets of fluff stretching for miles, on the other side of the valley there are some majestic mountains. A few clouds are moving over the valley, but they don't bother us because we are above the clouds. It's cool up here and for the first time in weeks I'm wearing socks and a fleece jacket. After the heat of the plains in Chettinad and Madurai, I enjoy breathing fresh, cool mountain air. The fog that came up in the late afternoon doesn't bother me either. Somehow it belongs to it, because the plants in the tea plantations love moisture, and the fog lends the scenery something mystical. I can also warm my hands on the large glass of tea, with which I strengthen myself for power blogging together with a portion of fine white and dark chocolate. In Munnar not only tea is grown, but also cocoa, which is processed into delicious chocolate specialties in small factories.
Even if the day is overcast, the calm and fresh atmosphere is very engaging. Photo: Alexandra Lattek
I imagine what it was like when the first British discovered Munnar 170 years ago to escape the heat of the plains in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. You will have sat with your tea on the terraces of the colonial bungalows, some of which have now been converted into luxury hotels and some are private houses. The first tea plants were cultivated by the British, today almost all tea plantations are owned by the Tata group.
Unfortunately, it has been deploying heavy artillery for some time and no longer allows visitors to simply walk through the tea plantations without a permit. Unfortunately, on our early morning excursion, we are chased away by a security officer who drives a motorcycle patrol on the sandy paths between the plantation units. The explanations and requests from Robin, our landlord in the Green Magic Home, and our guide do not help either.
So we have to overturn our plan. We catch a glimpse of the tea pickers, who move like colorful dots in the green sea of tea plants. Picking tea is a tough job, you pay by weight and you need a sense of proportion and precision. Most of the time, such a position is passed on from generation to generation. Even if the pay and working conditions are clearly in need of improvement and strikes keep coming back, most of the tea pickers here are grateful for their job.
This sight stretches for miles before our eyes
Cardamom, coffee and cocoa in the woods around Munnar
I still have the scent in my nose. From the grated cardamom pod in my hand. And the cocoa and coffee beans that we pick from the lush green bushes on our walk. I think of the colors of the flowers of the wildflowers that grow everywhere here. And see the cheeky millipede in front of me, brave enough to cross the path at our feet. You can also really go trekking in Munnar - with the Anamud, whose summit rises to 2695 m, Munnar has the highest mountain in South India - but after the broken trip to the tea plantations we decide on a smaller tour through the surrounding forests. However, this is not entirely without, because the rain at night makes the paths muddy and slippery and our guide is a lover of shortcuts.
Munnar is a true paradise, even if the tea plantations cannot be seen
Behind the cardamom, coffee and cocoa bushes, curious brown eyes flash at us again and again. It's harvest season. Young girls, young women with small children, older women - when I approach with my camera, some look away intimidated, most of them grimacing in a hearty laugh. It's nice when, despite all the hard physical work, you can still find a reason to smile. When I use the cardamom from Munnar, which I bought a few days later in a wholesale market in Kochi, when I return to cooking, I will surely keep these moments in mind.
In Munnar you will not only find the famous tea plantations, but also coffee, cocoa and cardamom, which all want to be picked. Photo: Alexandra Lattek
Munnar Bazaar - not necessarily worth seeing
Even if it rains heavily in the afternoon, we take a short trip to Munnar Bazaar. The cluster of kiosks and small shops along the main street littered with potholes and huge puddles is even less inviting than usual in this weather, but our guide made our mouths watery. And we absolutely have to buy chocolate. And tea. I've been carrying it around in my backpack for over two months now. I'm looking forward to trying it at home in Munich soon. Except for a short shopping trip, Munnar Bazaar can be safely ignored. Instead, you prefer to retire to your cozy homestay, as we did then. For another cup of tea with a view of the cloud-covered slopes that the tea plantations nestle against.
P.S. I wish I hadn't eaten all of the chocolate at once while blogging. Then I would have had more space for the wonderful dinner that Robin conjures up for us in the Green Magic Home. Kerala delicacies - various vegetable curries, all with a touch of coconut, delicious daal and chapattis fresh from the oven. A reason to pay another visit to Munnar!
Dinner in the homestay comforts you over the bad weather. Photo: Alexandra Lattek
Are you ready to go on an adventure in the tea plantations of Munnar yourself? Then write to us and we will make it possible. We not only help you with travel planning, but are also there for you on site!
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