We started off early on the Thekkady-Allepey
Road (The Tea Trail) that we had taken yesterday to the Spice Garden. Again
we marveled at the many tea plantations with their countless hillside rows
and the sight of the tea pickers with their straw baskets on their backs.
Commercial production of tea in India began after the
conquest of large areas of Indian land by the British East India Company.The
widespread popularity of tea as a recreational drink began in earnest in
the 1920s, after a successful advertising campaign by the Tea Board and
several mass promotion drives by the Government. Today, India is one of
the largest tea producers in the world, although over 70 per cent of its
tea is consumed within India itself.
The factory complex, surrounded by beautiful
tea gardens, was designed and built by an Irishman in 1941.
After wandering past the tea gardens on the road up
to the factory, our formal tour began with the local guide's informative
Powerpoint presentation on the plants tea production. He had studied in
Bristol, England so his English was very good as he explained the growing
and harvesting process. We then started our tour in the factory. Unfortunately
no photos were allowed -- industrial espionage, you know :)
Making our way through the large machines we observed
the various processing steps: withering, crushing, fermentation, oxidation,
heating, drying, cleaning, grading the leaves . . . The machinery was really
loud, and everything smelled like freshly mown grass.
After exiting the din of the factory, while waiting
for the group to gather, Sue-On showed one of the girls some Qi-Gong exercises.
This was in a scenic spot under a giant tree overlooking the valley below.
We then rushed over to a booth where we were treated to a cup of tea.
On our way down to the bus, Sue-On realized that her
glasses were missing. They had been hooked onto her top when she had started
her Qi-Gong workout. Frantically, she and Sanjay retraced her steps. As
they approached the tree where she had been doing the demo, her glasses
"beckoned" her -- reflecting the sunlight from where they lay upon the
ground. Whew! They were too expensive to leave behind.