The oldest tea factory of Munnar lies in its highest point, Kolukkumalai. The Kolukkumalai Tea plantations and the factory is now part of the state of Tamil Nadu and is managed by the Kottagudi Tea Plantations group. Contrary to the usual CTC Tea produced by the other plantations mainly owned by the Tata Kannan Devan group and the Harrisons Malayalam group, Kolukkumalai factory still uses the Orthodox methods to process the tea leaves. This is either hand processed or rolled by machinery which does the similar kind of hand rolling.
Kolukkumalai, as its name, stands at a towering height of more than 8000 ft above the sea level. This makes the Kolukkamalai plantations boast another record of the World’s highest organic tea plantations. Organic, because still no fertilizers are used and thus the Kolukkumalai tea stands tall in its unique quality as well.
The Way up to the Highest orthodox tea plantations
The Monsoon season of Kerala is not said as the ideal time for visiting the high range areas, mainly because it becomes tough to stay outside in the non stop rains. Still some days can be completely different and we were lucky enough on that.
We chose to visit Munnar with the sole intention of watching the Kolukkumalai and the sunrise on top of the tea plantations. Munnar and its charming beauty is not something which can be completed in a day or two. It has that magic of bringing in a new and different experience whenever you visit.
Starting off at 4 45 am, particularly after you had a long drive the day before is tough. Even difficult to ride in a Jeep through the mud and dirt covered stony and serpentine path of the various Tea estates. It takes an hour to go from Chinna Canal to Kolukkumalaie enroute the Suryanelli town.
If you start from Munnar it take half an hour more to reach Chinna Canal. We chose our stay wisely in Chinna canal for getting some more time to sleep before we start.
Our Jeep driver Kannan, who turned out to be a good guide as well showed the Harrisson Malayalam groups estates at suryanelli we could only guess it as it was too dark ( though we could see them while returining). The two high beam lights of our Mahindra 1999 model Jeep was barely enough to see some part of road in front of us which was covered with fog as well.
Mesmerized by the skill and the speed by which Kannan was driving, we asked him for how long he is here. The answer solved the reason for his driving skills, his whole life.
As promised, we reached the top station of Kolukkumalai estate by 5 45 just on time to sea the sunrise. Kannan had told us that due to heavy rains and fog, tourists are very less. That was an advantage as very few people were there to see a sunrise which is very less likely to see because of the cloudy sky.
The Dawn at Kolukkumalai
The top station has a tea stall which soothened our numbness because of the cold and rough ride. Behind the tea stall is a small way up where we can get little more height. If the sun is really up there without any cloud hindrance, it would be an awesome view from the top. But we were little unlucky in that part.
After the sunrise, next destination is the Tea factory which is also called as the World’s oldest functioning orthodox tea factory. On the way down through the tea plantations, we can see the green rows of tea plants. A distant view of Bodi town located far below can be seen which is the nearest town other than Munnar for the workers of Kolukkumalai.
The popular trek to Meeshapulimala starts from the Kolukkumalai top station. You can also go through our previous post best trekking places of Kerala which will give you more details about Meesapulimala trekking.
If you are planning for a day long visit, the trek is definitely worth trying, but make sure to have enough food and water.
With less than 5 hours of sleep, we never thought we will be this awake at the Kolukkumalai. Feeling the nature in its most pristine beauty is great. The beauty of the tea plantations blends with that of the nature and gives the traveler an ecstatic feeling altogether.
The Tea factory looks pretty small but is built exactly for its purpose. The Kolukkumalai tea is unique as its free from all chemical fertilizers and is still processed using orthodox methods. There is a shop near to the factory, which sells tea (undoubtedly from the processed tea leaves of the plantation) and tea powder as well.
The ride to Kolukkumalai ends with the Tea factory visit. There is so less number of places to see in this visit but whatever you see will be in your mind forever. That is the power of nature in some places like these.
How to Reach Kolukkumalai
From Munnar, Kolukkumalai is at a distance of around 41 KM . Only if you have SUVs with pretty high ground clearance should you try going in your own vehicle to Kolukkumalai. It is always better to hire a Jeep from Munnar or Chinnakanal. The ride takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach Kolukkumalai. Jeep drivers are mostly very good guides as well in this part.