The highest tea estates in India are seen in and around Munnar which is in the hill ranges of the Western Ghats in Kerala. It was the British settlers during the colonial times who had introduced the tea plantations and cultivation in Kerala. It is because in such hill regions the climate and soil conditions are suitable for cultivating tea. India is today the world’s largest tea producer and exporter.
The tea plant (Camellia sinensis) is usually grown in bushes. It has shiny green pointed leaves with a pleasant aroma. You can feel the pleasant smell of the tea leaves as you walk through these tea plantations. Tea bushes will grow to tree height in the wild. But in plantations the tea bushes are grown up to waist height so that the leaves can be plucked easily. Tea leaves are plucked out by hand by groups of women. These women carry a basket behind their backs and they pluck the first two leaves along with the bud from each shoot. These are then placed inside the basket. The collected tea leaves are then processed and sorted into different categories based on various processing treatments. The three broad classifications of tea are – Green Tea, Oolong Tea and Black Tea.
Other crops such as pepper, areca nut and cashew are also grown on tea plantations. Some shade trees are also planted in the tea plantations to provide shelter to the tea bushes. Such trees also produce fruits. On a tour to Kerala, it is possible to find the beautiful tea estates and the process of plucking tea leaves on tea plantations.