It was the perfect place to sip an afternoon tea.
At an altitude of 1800 meters above sea level, Masood and I visited one of the tea plantations in Coonoor, a small town 19 km from Ooty.
Going up to the tea plantations was an adventure in itself. In an attempt not to destroy more trees than was necessary on the mountains, the authorities have paved very narrow roads that lead up to the plantations, just enough for the mini bus to pass through comfortably. Except that these roads are used for two-way traffic!
It was crazy! On several occasions, our driver had to park the bus on the extreme left of the road to give way to the on-coming traffic. Sometimes, we were so close to the edge that the tree branches would brush against our faces through the vehicle’s open window. I’ve recorded this short video to give you an idea on how it was traveling up there. Pardon the poor quality; I used my Kodak point-and-shoot camera to record it.
There is a fee to enter the tea plantation. I do not remember how much because I was busy taking pictures through the window when Masood was paying. This particular plantation we went to is owned by an Indian actress named Mumtaz. A man climbed into the bus and gave us a brief introduction on tea plantation and production. He brought with him a newly-plucked tea leaf to show us.
If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice that tea leaves are bunched together in 3’s: two outer leaves and a delicate bud in the middle. We were told the the outer leaves make the regular black tea that we drink, while the middle bud is what makes a green tea.
Then we drove some more into the plantation and hopped off the bus to take pictures. Masood posed between the tea leaves and I took his pictures, then I handed over the camera to him before I ran to pose myself. We repeated that several times until we were both satisfied that the pictures clearly showed where we were.
The people who were in the bus with us hired a professional to take their pictures. The photographer had all the essential things required to make their pictures a memorable one: a handmade basket, a small umbrella, a colorful headscarf – to give his smiling subjects a local touch while they pose as if harvesting tea leaves. He uses a Nikon, by the way.
We also shopped for some tea at the small store located at the plantation itself. For five rupees, I had the most deliciously-brewed milk tea of my life. Plus, we got to sample chocolate tea, herbal tea and mint tea.
I would highly recommend the green tea. The other packet that we bought was ginger tea, but we couldn’t taste the ginger in the tea.