Tea was first introduced to the uplands of Kerala in the 1880s by a band of entrepreneurial Scots, and in a matter of decades became the region’s principal export. It continues to dominate both the economy and landscape of the area around Munnar, where vast acres of lush, neatly clipped bushes carpet the lower flanks of South India’s highest and most spectacular mountains, Anamudi (2,695m/8,842ft) and Meesapulimala (2,640m 8,661ft).
Tea cultivation, picking and processing have basically altered very little since the bushes were first planted in Kerala’s mountains a century and a half ago, which makes a visit to a working estate particularly interesting. Dressed in colourful saris with oversized baskets slung on their backs, Tamil women still do most of the harvesting, while the leaves are withered, fermented, dried,curled and chopped using machinery built in Glasgow or Sheffield before World War II. Visitors may, of course, taste the results and purchase packets of their favourite brews before leaving.
You can add this experience to any tailor-made itinerary that includes a night in Munnar.