Explore the 100 Year Old Lockhart Tea Factory in Munnar
Munnar is an all-time favourite tourist destination in South India because it is blessed with a cool climate throughout the year. Climate which attracts tourists to Munnar is also suitable for growing the best tea in the world. Munnar became a hotspot for tea cultivation after tea cultivation was introduced by the British during the colonial rule. Some of the ancient British tea factories which operates here like 100 Year Old Lockhart Tea Factory are still producing high quality tea suitable for export. Mostly tea is cultivated here on undulating terrains and in some regions it is grown on low lying plains. The tea cultivated from these estates is processed in factories and is transported to various parts of the world. Currently Munnar houses more than 50 tea estates and gardens.
The stunning view of green tea carpets is a major factor which attracts tourists from all over the world to this destination. Lockhart Gap Munnar Viewpoint is a breathtakingly beautiful area where one can get panoramic views of tea plantations flaunted by towering mountain ranges. A drive along this route in the afternoon watching the orange sun rays illuminating the tea gardens is a not-to-miss while visiting Munnar.
The age old Lockhart tea factory was established about 100+ years back by British East India Company and is famous for manufacturing Orthodox Tea in the traditional way. The factory allows public visits during the regular working hours and one can observe the various stages of tea processing here. The factory houses a museum, a tea sale outlet and tea tasting section and tourists are given briefing about the Tea History & Health Benefits to the visitors. Apart from these, Lockhart Tea Factory also has a museum where olden photographs, Machinery, Tools etc were used by ancestors in old times are displayed. Fresh Orthodox tea also can be bought from the Lockhart Factory Outlet which is located inside the Factory premises.
The factory is owned by Harrison Malayalam Limited who is South India’s largest cultivator of tea. It is estimated that Lockhart tea factory produces about 20 million kilograms of tea every year. The pure high quality tea produced here is being exported to various countries like England, China etc. The tea cultivated here has been certified to be the best commercial grade tea in the world. The world class products like Tetley tea and PG Tips contain tea that is sourced from Munnar. Organic tea and flavoured teas are specialty products of the factory.
The company has given job opportunities for a large group of local residents and has an approximate workforce of 15000+ employees. The factory also supports the rural communities by providing facilities like healthcare, food and shelter. Almost half the employees are women who earn the same salary as their male workers. Harrison Malayalam Company also engages in cultivation of other products like banana, cardamom, coffee, pepper, vanilla, cocoa, areca nut etc.
The usual misconception about tea processing is that each type of tea is derived from different kind of plants. The truth behind tea processing is that all varieties of tea are sourced from the same type of leaf or plant. White tea sourced from the youngest bud, top most part of the tea leaf. The portion just below the bud is used for making green tea and the third portion goes for black tea processing. The fourth portion is normally used for making tea dust which is the lowest grade tea. White tea is not very popularly used in India, but is exported to countries like China and England. The taste of tea increases with the age of the plant and height of the region. Thus superior grade teas are sourced from the highest hills of Munnar. Following this principle, tea is being plucked even today from decades old tea plantations in Munnar.
The Lockhart tea factory is situated 8 KM away from Munnar town on the way to Thekkady in the NH-49 . One can take a rickshaw or taxi from the town to reach the factory. Guided tours can be availed during the factory working hours.
The traditional methods of manufacturing process are being adopted in the factory to produce good quality tea. The management committee takes great effort to maintain and preserve the machines which were installed 150 years back. At the factory sales outlet once can purchase various grades of tea and other plantation products that they wish to take back home.
For those who would like to spend more time exploring this charming slice of Munnar, the 150 year-old Lockhart Tea Bungalow built by the British on the slopes of the Chokarmudi hills is an ideal place to stay. Chokarmudi is the third highest peak in South India from where one can get views of Idukki reservoir and a glimpse of the nearest metro city Kochi.
The bungalow has two luxury rooms which are neatly decorated with antique elements, a cozy fireplace and also equipped with all necessary amenities. There is a common sit out area and a verandah for the guests to lounge in during leisure moments. The bungalow is constructed in a typical colonial style with stone walls and quality wooden flooring. A stay at this ancient bungalow will offer a unique experience for the guests with the splendid nature vistas that the place offers and cool breezy climate all through the day. The guests staying here get access to visit the tea factory, museum, tea production centre and tea estates where one can witness harvesting of tea leaves.
Overlooking Chokarmudy Hill – one of the highest peaks of south India, camp at one of Munnar’s iconic tea estates amidst low-lying clouds, fog filled valleys, lush green meadows, and manicured velvety tea gardens. Take a lonely walk through tea plantations, sip fresh tea, listen to your inner self, feel the super cold mountain air go through your spine and melt into the surreal settings of our campground. The walk in the midst of tea garden and the climate will surely soothe you, and it will be a memorable experience for you. The tea plantation visit offers ample scopes for experiencing the tea shoot plucking. There are many other adventure activities like trekking and wildlife for those who are interested.
From the factory view point the stunning Lockhart valley can be seen clearly. The silvery water streams gushing out of the hilly ranges, acres of tea estates and mist clad valleys and mountains of the Lockhart region will beckon any visitor to come back again and again.