I never fancied myself to be a tea drinker, however one of my top destinations in visiting Malaysia had always been the famous rolling tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands. The same region, also famous for their bountiful strawberry harvest, is a bit of an anomaly in South East Asia for it’s ability to produce such great crops on a near continual basis throughout the year.
In being located almost one mile above sea level, the Cameron Highlands are removed from the heat that the nearby cities are accustomed to seeing. With daily rain showers and cooler temperatures, crops flourish, and the BOH Tea Plantation, Malaysia’s largest with over 5 square miles of planted tea, is the shining gem that foreigners and Malays alike go out of their way to see. Locals visit here to stock up on tasty teas and tourists flock here to try out the exotic drinks. Due to the location of the plantation many tourists stay is nearby cities and then take buses to tour the crops. For travelers staying in Penang hotels or any nearby city can often find brochures about the plantation in the hotel’s lobby. It’s a good idea to check out pamphlets and get back ground information about the plantation before you go. This way you will have a better idea about the teas you would like to try.
If picturing 5 square miles of planet tea is hard enough, the facts that BOH publish on their website are even more surprising. At that size the plantations are able to harvest 4 million kilograms of tea each year, which is roughly 5.5 million cups of tea per day. Surely this company would have to have one variety that I would enjoy?
Getting to the plantation is not the easiest of activities, as due to its size the main entrance is located quite far out of the town of Tanah Rata which required me to jump in a cab for a quick ride up to the plantation. The first view you get of the fields is nothing short of jaw dropping, as the tea quite literally covers every inch of usable space and appears form fitting on all the rolling hills as far as you can see, and then some. The first view is just the beginning.
A 10 minute drive down a twisty path, up and down hills, and seemingly going on forever ended at the visitors center and centerpiece of the Boh Tea Plantation. Before jumping in for some samples, it was time to take a self guided walking tour of the facilities and look at the equipment that is used to prepare the tea, much to the delight of my inner engineer.
Unfortunately, I did not travel to see equipment, and quickly went to the gift shop and cafe to try a cup of their famous tea. I ended up going with one of their fruit flavor teas (Strawberry Raspberry) even though it does not contain a single ounce of real tea leaves. With a view of the plantation as my backdrop, it didn’t even bother me that I was not sampling the beauty that I was looking at, as my tea stock increased to several hundred packets of both regular and fruit flavored tea after a trip to their gift shop.
One hundred photos later and ample money spent on tea gifts for others and extra for myself, I began to hike up the windy trail that I drove in on to get up close and personal with the tea and to take some amazing photos. 45 minutes later and I only ended up 2/3rds of the way through the path to the main road, not knowing what I would do after that to get back to town.
I had been told on several occasions that hitch-hiking is a perfectly acceptable form of transportation in the Cameron Highlands, but I never thought I’d see myself doing it. Shortly after realizing how far I still had to go I heard the familiar beep beep of a motorbike and a local kid offered me a ride to the main road. Why not? I knew all was well when the kid did not even ask for a single ringgit (~33 cents) for the lift, and I began my trek down the main road to catch up to a public bus, only to again be greeted with the familiar sound of a car honk and offer for a ride from a new friend back to Tanah Rata.
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