Famous Tea Plantations in Kerala
Tea is the most popular drink in the world today. It is used by more than two third of the world’s population and almost in every part of the world. It can be safely accorded the pride of place as the beverage of the world. Once it was a drink of the rich and a luxury item but today it has become the cheapest available to every section of the society. Tea is said to be an indigenous product of the north east region of India. It was being grown and consumed long before the British found the commercial production lucrative enough to begin plantations in the North East and Southern India.
The history of tea plantation in Kerala is associated with the Britishers. They were trying to vie with the tea trade of China. They found that the slopes of the Western Ghats could be the prime tea plantation site in India. The weather, the soil and the long history of the know-how in plantation of spices made the slopes of the Ghats a suitable location for tea plantation in India. Thus, Kerala came to occupy a prominent place among tea grower states of India.
Tea plantation in Kerala is spread over Idukki, Wayanad, Kottayam, Thrissur, Malappuram and Palakkad but Idukki and Wayanad are the two major tea producing regions by way of total acreage under tea. 87 % of the total area under tea gardens in Kerala falls in these two districts. Idukki is the most important district with 72% of the total acreage of Kerala under tea plantations here. The main tea growing areas of Idukki are in Munnar, Vandiperiyar and Peermade regions. Wayanad accounts for about 14% other than areas under multi plantations like Palghat-Nelliampathy and Thiruvananthapuram.
Tea Plantations in Idukki
Munnar is a famous tea town in the Idukki district of Kerala. It is a hill station also which caters to a large number of tourists all the year round. The general elevation of the town is about 1600 m above sea level making it a very pleasant place in summers. The town is situated on the flat of the Kanan Devi Hills. Munnar is said to have received its name from the confluence of three rivers named Mudra puzha, Nallathanni and Kundala flowing very close to the town. The vast stretches of tea estates, rolling hills, beautiful valleys and the confluence of the three rivers make it a very popular destination for tourists in Kerala. It was once a holiday resort of the Britishers who came to enjoy the great weather and scenic beauty of the place and have a beautiful time from February to November. The hospitality of the planters was added later to the beauty of Munnar. It is the hub of tea plantations in Kerala. There are scores of tea estates in and around Munnar. It is the place of one of the oldest tea plantations in Kerala.
The town owes its fame as a tea destination to the Scottish gentleman J.D.Munro. He was a lawyer in the state of Travancore. Once on a mission of settling a dispute for his employer, the man saw Munnar, fell in love with the enchanting beauty of its rolling slopes that must have resembled his native Scottish highlands. He leased the area from the ruler of Travancore. Munro established the Travancore Land Planting & Agricultural Society and after some trial and error with spices, coffee and tea plantation, tea growing was found suitable due to the favourable weather conditions of the region. Thus, began the long journey of the story of tea in Munnar. The famous Finlay Muir and Co. consolidated 31 tea estates under the umbrella of the Kannan Devan Hills Produce Company in 1895 creating a vast tea Empire. The Tata group joined hands with Finlay and started the Tata-Finlay Group in 1964. It established the Kannan Devan Hills Produce Pvt. Ltd. The group sold 69% shares to the workers in 2005 and the first ever co-operative society for the management and production of tea was established. The Tata group and others came to own just 31% shares in the new workers co-operative.
Some of the main Tea plantations of the Munnar region of kerala are as follows.
Pallivasal Tea Estate
Anayirankal Tea Estate
Kolukumalai Tea Estate
Kundala Tea Estate
DTPC Information Centre
Pothamadu Tea estate
Bagracote Tea Garden
Chithirapuram Tea Estate
Upper Surianalle Estate
Glenburn Tea Estate
Vandiperiyar and Peermade
Vandiperiyar is a major trade centre and plantation town in Idukki district of Kerala. The river Periyar gives it the name and nourishment to all its plantations and people. It flows through the middle of the township. The town is an important hub of the post production processing work for tea in units called tea factories. The major tea producing groups like RBT, AVT and Harrison’s Malayalam have their own tea processing factories at Vandiperiyar. The tea estates in the Vandiperiyar region are in one of the oldest tea plantation areas of Kerala. Most are located at an average height of a 1000 m above sea level but estates are found at as low as 750 and as high as 1350 m.
Peermade is a hill station and tea plantation area of Idukki. It is situated on way to Kumily at a distance of about 85 km from Kottayam. The area is famous for its lush green vistas, waterfalls and rows of fine pine trees adding to the charm of the sprawling tea estates. The average height of Peermade is 914 m above sea level. It is a part of the Sahyadri Mountains. The erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore had made it his summer retreat during his reign. The annual rain fall in the area is up to 6000mm while the dry season lasts from 90 to 150 days. Thus, the weather conditions of Peermade provide ideal conditions for the tea plantations in the area.
The RBT Group is the major player in the area with plantations in Nellickai, Manjumalai, Pambanar and Thengakal regions. This group had suspended its activities till 2007. It has now started production again and is now one of the biggies of the area. The UPASI TRF Regional centre has also been established in the area to help plantations in the Vandiperiyar and Peermade area of estates. The centre helps the planters in pest management because the region of Vandiperiyar and Peermade is prone to the menace of insects and pests rendering plantations a very risky venture.
Some of the main tea estates in the area are mentioned below.
Chidambaram Tea Estate
Churakulam Tea Estates Pvt. Ltd.
Connemara Tea Estate
Carady Goody Estate
Tea Plantation in Wayanad
The highland region of Wayanad is the second important area of tea plantations in Kerala. It is one of the most scenic areas in the Malabar region of Kerala and is often called the green heaven of Malabar. The high hills with their majestic peaks, the undulating slope of the Western Ghats and the wonderful flora and fauna of the region has made it into a much coveted hill station of the south. Some of the high peaks of Wayanad are Vellarimala at 2338 m Chembra at 2100 m and Banasura at 2073 m.
Some of the main tea estates in the Wayanad area are as follows.
Elstone Tea Estate
Sentinel Rock Estate
Cherakara Tea Estate
Jessie tea estate
Peria Peak Tea Estate
Priyadarshini Tea Estate
Talopoya tea estate
Tatamala Tea Estate
Other tea producing areas of Kerala are Palakkad, Malappuram and Trivandrum.
Tea Plantations in Palakkad
Palakkad is famous for its hill ranges, wildlife sanctuary, hair pin curves of its routes, waterfalls and lush green stretches of tea plantations. Nelliampathy is a well visited hill station with the lovely Palagapandy tea estate as one of the major attractions of the area. The Nellikota mountain range is a ridge stretch of fairly high elevation with Padagiri at 1572 m being the highest peak of the region. Some tea estates are given below.Palagapandy Tea Estate
Tea Plantations in Thiruvananthapuram
Ponmudi is a hill station and tea estate 60 km from Thiruvananthapuram. The location of the estate is very important. The elevation of the area is 1100 m above sea level. An important feature of the tea estate is that it serves as a base for hiking and trekking in the higher reaches of the mountain range. The way to Ponmudi offers a magnificent view of nature in all its glory. The road is narrow and winding all the way to Thiruvananthapuram. The local villages in the area showcase the calm beauty of Kerala and the picturesque scenery of its tea plantations.
Bonakkad is a famous tea estate near Ponmudi. It is the place that serves as the base camp to trek to the famous peak of Agasthyakoodam. The famous Bona falls and the Vazuvanchola waterfalls are the enchanting points of the Bonakkad. The tea estate was originally established by the Britishers.
Some other tea estates of Kerala are given below.
Via Punalur, Quilon
Via Punalur, Quilon