11 In Asia/ India

Visit The Tea Plantations Of Kerala, India: Munnar Tea Plantation Tour

During my two-week trip to Kerala, India, I was lucky enough to visit the tea plantations and factories of Munnar. We spent a whole day driving around the tea plantations on 4WD jeeps, first visiting the local women who pick the tea leaves and then learning about how the tea is processed at the local factory. For me exploring the tea plantations of Munnar was one of the highlights of Kerala Blog Express.

Exploring the tea plantations of Munnar, India

Exploring the tea plantations of Munnar, India

About tea production in India

Commercial production of tea in India began as an attempt by the British to break the Chinese monopoly on tea. The British East India Company took over large areas of land, that were then converted for mass tea production. Tea is a very popular drink in India, so much that 70% of the tea produced in India is consumed in India itself. There are a number of different states in India that produce tea, with Munnar being one of the most popular and beautiful tea plantation regions.

The Kerala Blog Express season 5 bloggers in the tea plantations of Munnar, India

The Kerala Blog Express season 5 bloggers in the tea plantations of Munnar, India

About Munnar

Munnar is a region in the hills of Kerala, famous for having some of the most elevated tea plantations in the world. Back in the day British colonials used to come to Munnar to escape the Indian heat, and it is still the perfect place to do so. High in the hills, the climate is considerably different from its surrounding low-lying regions. In Munnar you can relax while enjoying stunning views over the valleys and tea plantations, while enjoying cool weather and escaping the Indian heat.

View over the tea plantations of Munnar, India

View over the tea plantations of Munnar, India

Touring the tea plantations of Munnar

We started the day by meeting the jeeps at the edge of the tea plantations. Since we were travelling around Kerala in a coach we would not have been able to drive on the unpaved roads of the plantations with it. We got on-board our vehicles for the day and set off on a beautiful drive with stunning views over the tea plantations and valley of Munnar. The road is unpaved so the journey can be a bit bumpy, just make sure to hold on and enjoy the ride! During our drive we learnt that the tea plants are actually trees that could grow up to 4 metres, but are kept short to make it easier to pick the leaves, which is why they look like bushes in the photos.

Driving a 4WD in the tea plantations of Munnar, India

Driving a 4WD in the tea plantations of Munnar, India

Dancing around the tea plantations of Munnar, India

Dancing around the tea plantations of Munnar, India

Exploring the tea plantations of Munnar, India, with our 4WD

Exploring the tea plantations of Munnar, India, with our 4WD

While visiting the tea plantations we got the opportunity to meet some of the women that work as tea pickers, who showed us how tea leaves are picked. All the leaves are handpicked either by hand (as the name implies) for the more delicate tea plants, or with the device you can see in photos below. Each woman must collect a minimum of 13kg of leaves a day, however the tea pickers usually collect between 100kg and 120kg of tea leaves a day. They get paid daily depending on how much they picked that day in kilos. The average salary of a tea picker is $8 a day.

One of the local women that work as tea pickers in the tea plantations of Munnar, India

One of the local women that work as tea pickers in the tea plantations of Munnar, India

A group of tea pickers in Munnar, India

A group of tea pickers in Munnar, India

One of the tea pickers in the plantations of Munnar, India

One of the tea pickers in the plantations of Munnar, India

Tea production in Munnar

Our tour of the tea plantations ended at the Lockhart tea factory, where they showed us how fresh tea leaves are processed to become the tea we drink. We arrived at the factory after a long morning spent driving around the plantations and were welcomed with tea and cakes. After our snack we started our guided tour of the tea factory. The tour started in the withering room, where the fresh leaves are placed on long tables to dry.  The tables are actually made of a fine mesh as opposed to a solid surface, and hot air is pumped from below through them to aid the withering process.

Lockhart tea factory in Munnar, India

Lockhart tea factory in Munnar, India

Room at Lockhart Factory where the tea leaves are withered

Room at Lockhart Factory where the tea leaves are withered

Once the leaves have been withered and they are now more pliable they are moved on to the next step of the process; the rolling. This is done by huge machines that spin in circles and break up the tea leaves. When we walked into this room we were met by the deafening noise of the rolling machines, which they had to momentarily turn off to give us the opportunity to hear our guide and understand how it worked.

The machines that roll the leaves and break them

The machines that roll the leaves and break them

After the rolling takes place the leaves are now broken up and will naturally begin oxidising. They are then moved into a special room where they are left out to oxidize. When the oxygen reacts with the tea leaves it turns them brown, determining the tea’s taste, strength and colour. The darker the leaf the more oxidised it is.

Fresh tea leaves being transported within the tea factory

Fresh tea leaves being transported within the tea factory

Once the oxidization process is over the tea leaves are passed through another hot drier, which reduces their water content even more. The final step is for the tea leaves to be sorted and packed. The leaves go through another machine that detects the level of oxidation from the size and weight of the leaves and sorts it down different chutes. Here the factory workers sort the various bags with the right tea labels and it’s ready to be used for drinking! I was very surprised to discover that this whole process lasts only 24 hours from the moment the leaves are picked to when they are ready for shipping. I was equally surprised to discover that the same tea plant produces multiple different types of tea, it just varies depending on how it is then processed.

One of the factory workers sorting the processed tea leaves

One of the factory workers sorting the processed tea leaves

The tea leaves being sorted in sacks

The tea leaves being sorted in sacks

Different types of teas sorted in sacks at Lockhart tea factory

Different types of teas sorted in sacks at Lockhart tea factory

Have you ever visited a tea plantation? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! Visiting the tea plantations of Munnar was one of my favourite experiences of Kerala Blog Express. After the long journeys on the coach driving from one place to another; cruising the backwaters of Allaphuza or doing intense adventure activities in Wayanad, it was the perfect way to relax and enjoy being outdoors. Learning about how tea leaves are picked and processed was also extremely interesting. If you’re planning a trip to Kerala, I highly recommend visiting Munnar and its tea plantations.

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If you want to visit a tea plantation, Munnar in India is one of the best places to do so! Located in the hills of Kerala Munnar is a beautiful region with rolling tea fields that you can visit. Find out everything you need to know about doing a tea plantation tour in Munnar, India. #india #kerala #munnar #teaplantations #teaplantationtour #4WD #tea #keralablogexpress

If you want to visit a tea plantation, Munnar in India is one of the best places to do so! Located in the hills of Kerala Munnar is a beautiful region with rolling tea fields that you can visit. Find out everything you need to know about doing a tea plantation tour in Munnar, India. #india #kerala #munnar #teaplantations #teaplantationtour #4WD #tea #keralablogexpress

If you want to visit a tea plantation, Munnar in India is one of the best places to do so! Located in the hills of Kerala Munnar is a beautiful region with rolling tea fields that you can visit. Find out everything you need to know about doing a tea plantation tour in Munnar, India. #india #kerala #munnar #teaplantations #teaplantationtour #4WD #tea #keralablogexpress

If you want to visit a tea plantation, Munnar in India is one of the best places to do so! Located in the hills of Kerala Munnar is a beautiful region with rolling tea fields that you can visit. Find out everything you need to know about doing a tea plantation tour in Munnar, India. #india #kerala #munnar #teaplantations #teaplantationtour #4WD #tea #keralablogexpress

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Kiara Gallop
    May 19, 2018 at 8:35 am

    Oh I loved this part of Kerala too! I spent 12 days in Kerala, 4 of which were spent hiking through the tea plantations and Western Ghats. Such a beautiful part of the world (even though we were there when a cyclone was approaching and for a large chunk of our time there, it literally didn’t stop raining!!)

    • Reply
      Greta
      May 21, 2018 at 10:11 am

      Oh wow that must have been quite the experience! I imagine the tea plantations are beautiful even in the rain!

  • Reply
    Mohana Das
    May 19, 2018 at 8:57 am

    Wonderful post! Love the lush tea plantations. If you enjoyed your stay on the tea plantations, I highly recommend spending a few days at Glenburn Estate in Darjeeling.

    • Reply
      Greta
      May 21, 2018 at 10:10 am

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! Will make sure to add Gelburn Estate to the bucket list for future trips!

  • Reply
    Brigitta
    May 21, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Such an interesting post! I learned a lot about tea producing. Thank you for sharing it 🙂

    • Reply
      Greta
      May 21, 2018 at 10:09 am

      No problem, glad you found it interesting!

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Amore Tea
    October 21, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Which tea estate did you visit, as I am thinking of going to one

    • Reply
      Greta
      October 24, 2018 at 8:59 am

      We visited Lockhart tea plantation and factory 🙂

  • Reply
    Paulomi Dutta
    March 12, 2019 at 3:47 am

    HI,
    Such an amazing post. Munnar is one of the most visited and beautiful places in India. I am glad that you visited Munnar. I along with my husband and a few other friends went there last year.
    It’s very nice of you that you photographed the locals too. Thanks for sharing your experience. Keep traveling.

    • Reply
      Greta
      March 21, 2019 at 12:55 pm

      Hi Paulomi, thanks for the comment, glad you liked it! Munnar really is beautiful. Safe travels 🙂

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