When you think of hill stations in Tamil Nadu in South India, Ooty, and Kodaikanal, top your list instantly. Certainly, both these are amazing hill stations to tour all through the year. Not many visitors know or visit the adjacent picturesque Nilgiri tea plantations.
Nilgiri district as a whole is a mesmerizing destination for all nature lovers. Laced with misty hills, chilled rivulets, and flashy waterfalls, Nilgiri is a visual treat. Nilgiri roughly translated as ‘Blue Mountains' is named thus after the ‘Kurinji' flowers. The violate color flowers blooming every once in 12 years in the Western Ghats including in Nilgiri adorn the hills during its season.
Besides the diverse array of flora and fauna, the region is popular for its tea plantations. Your visit to the hill station is incomplete without a stroll through the luxuriant Nilgiri tea plantations.
Hailing from Nilgiri, my friend Thomas and his brother Jobin have been instrumental in providing details and photos/videos.
The uniqueness of Nilgiri tea plantations
The establishment of Nilgiri tea plantations dates back to the British era in India. Even after independence, the region has been one of the best producers of tea in the country. Owing to the high demand for tea and coupled with the conducive ambiance, most of the households in the region either own or work in tea gardens.
- An altitude ranging up to 2500 m and the production of tea throughout the year, makes Nilgiri tea plantations to stand out.
- The black tea and oolong varieties are most famous in the region.
- The cold climate is extremely conducive to the flawless growth of tea plants here.
- Grown among trees like eucalypts, blue gum and cypress provide additional flavors to the leaves from Nilgiri tea plantations.
- Main cultivation of tea leaves is from December to March. However, harvesting of tea leaves happens throughout the year.
- Nilgiri tea is knows as CTC i.e., crush, tear, and curl.
- Nilgiri tea plantations produce almost 25% of total tea leaves produced in India.
Tea processing inside a factory
My friend tried in vain to photo-shoot the interior of the factories to provide better know-how of the tea processing procedure. Unfortunately, the inside story in pictures has to wait. However, with his firsthand experience of working in a factory for a short while, he has helped with some essential info.
Before glancing at the inside process, we need to know every tea factory has a staff positioned as a tea maker. With his/her high experience and expertise, s/he monitors, controls, and decides on the overall quality and process of tea powder. At every stage of the process, this person has a say.
You would have seen people picking on the tea leaves in the tea plantations. But do you know what exactly they do? They only pick the two tender most leaves and the fresh shoot from a sprout. And this is segregated for the premium category. At times, there can be other leaves and stems too in the bag.
Once the collected leaves reach the factory, they segregate the leaves depending on the freshness and tenderness of leaves. Thereupon, it is spread on a trough and goes through a hot air draining phase. If the factory is a large one, there will be multiple troughs with high capacity. The withering process drains out moisture from the leaves.
After which the leaves are crushed in a particular unit. The crushed or bruised sediment is then neatly segregated once again to cull out the unwanted elements. The extracted superior portion goes through a lengthy drying process. Hot air emitting huge furnaces is used for this process. The interesting part is the hot air doesn't directly hit the crushed leaves. The furnaces are fueled by electricity, coal, or firewood.
Carefully controlling heat, depending on the nature of tea required the batch goes through oxidizing procedure.
In the next stage, the fully dried and darkened sediment depending on the size of tea dust is segregated. The role of the tea maker has absolute significance during these stages. The segregated dust based on the quality is packed to roll out.
Major Tea estates
Popular tea estates of the region include Nestle, Harrison Malayalam, Craigmore, Pascoes Woodlands, Nonsuch Dunsanadale, Parkside, Glendale, Tiger Hill, Colacumby, Corsley, and several more. Both Private and Public sector companies are functioning across the region.
Tea and Tourism festival
Between Jan-Feb the festival is held in Nilgiri. Tea lovers from around the world gather during the three-day festival. It is an amazing opportunity to marvel at the Nilgiri tea plantations and taste the best variety of tea flavors.
Visiting the town during these months is ideal owing to the festival and the climate. And the main cultivation season also falls during this period.
How to reach
The nearest airport is in Coimbatore at a distance of around 100 KM
Nilgiri is well-connected by road network to all the cities and towns of the country.
The Nilgiri tea plantations are one of the spectacular places to visit in India. You can learn about tea processing as well as taste the different flavors and varieties of tea.
A Travel enthusiast and Foodie, craving to explore the intricate beauty of nature and its gift of delectable treats. Pens down his thoughts and experiences to present a delightful journey for his readers