Kolukkumalai – Visit The World’s Highest Tea Estate In Tamil Nadu (2023)
Located at a magnificent 8,000 feet, a visit to the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate is a must when you are in Tamil Nadu. This is the world’s highest tea estate, and not only do tourists from all over India come here for the beautiful panoramic views, but also for the tea products being sold here.
The Kolukkumalai Tea Estate is located just 35 km outside of Munnar, which is yet another must-see place in Tamil Nadu. The Kolukkumalai Tea Estate has been built high above the precipitous ridge that towers over the plains of Tamil Nadu and is located at 8,000 feet above sea level.
The Kolukkumalai Tea Estate is famous for being the highest tea estate in not just India but the world. The Kolukkumalai Tea Estate is known for producing excellent quality flavorsome teas. The estate is also famous as tourists from far and wide come here to check out the scenic views of the rugged mountains that surround the estate. In fact, on clear nights, it is possible to see all the way to Kodaikanal from the tea estate.
Tea Production in Kolukkumalai
Another unique feature of the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate is that it is one of the rare organic tea estates where tea is still made by hand. This conventional method of handmade tea processing is being practiced since the colonial era. This tea estate was started in the early 1900s, and even after the colonial planters left, not much has changed here. There are no computerized systems or modern machines here. In fact, there are ancient tea manufacturing machines that are proudly displayed here along with the labels of the English manufacturers and time stamps. Some of these machines even go all the way back to the 1940s.
As per the traditional ancient method of making tea, the tea leaves are first handpicked, then they are put through a controlled drying process of withering and fermenting and then graded. Tea that is brewed from these granules is much more flavorful and light in color. Visitors to the tea factory can also pick and process their own cup of tea during the ‘Make your Tea’ program.
The tea plantation at Kolukkumalai is a sprawling estate that is spread across over 1000 acres of land and produces over 12 tons of tea on an average each month.
When you come to the Kolukkumalai tea estate, you can take a full tour of the plantation, and there are many tour guides there who can take you around the estate. From seeing how the workers collect the tea leaves from the estate, and then later processing them into consumable tea, you can be a part of all the processes involved in tea making.
Weather in Kolukkumalai
The weather here remains pleasant throughout the year, though the best time to visit the Kolukkumalai tea estate is around the winter months. However, if you want to plan a trip during the summertime, then it would be best to go during the months of March and May.
What To Do In Kolukkumalai?
Of course, apart from seeing the scenic panoramic views, you get to go through the world’s largest tea estate. Once you reach here, you have to walk around 1 km downhill through the plantation, and this path will lead you right to the old-world organic tea factory. Established in 1919, this old-style tea factory will take you right back in time. The secluded and scenic location and seeing the old-world methods of tea manufacturing will surely make you believe in the beauty of simplicity.
You can take a tour around the factory, with its jagged wooden stairs and creaky doors also lend their old-world charm, and it becomes difficult to believe that such a place can actually exist in the 21st century. It is recommended to take a tour guide with you so that they can explain how things work here.
Not to mention, a trip to the Kolukkumalai is not complete without having a steaming cup of lemon tea here, made from the highest quality of tea leaves fresh from the plantation. These are categorized as Broken Orange Pekoe (BoP). You also have the option to head to Munnar from here or check out the nearby trekking trails.
Camping & Trekking at Kolukkumalai
It is also possible to plan a camping trip at the Kolukkumalai tea estate. There are many travel agencies who organize these, and it is best to make prior bookings as camping stays at Kolukkumalai are quite popular and in demand. Depending on the season, camping out at Kolukkumalai can be a great experience, especially when you enjoy a night out camping here. Sleeping bags, dinner, and breakfast are usually all included as part of your camping package.
The Kolukkumalai tea estate also has the Kolukkumalai Mountain Hut, which is a good option for the many trekkers who throng to these plantations. There is also the larger and family-friendly Kolukkumalai Guesthouse. Staying here, guests can explore the tea estate and hike all the up to the Kolukkumalai Peak. From the top of the Kolukkumalai Peak, you are treated to some of the best views of Tamil Nadu’s lush rolling plains, as well as a view of Kerala’s hills.
The Kolukkumalai tea estate and surrounding areas are also a treat for birdwatchers. Though the visibility at this place remains low between August to October, the properties here remain open all year round.
For hardcore adventure lovers, you can consider taking the three-day trek from Kolukkumalai all the way up to Meesapulimala, which is the second-highest peak in South India, and then come down on the other side to Munnar. On the way, hikers have the option to halt at either the Rhodo Valley or Silent Valley for the night. There are also various tents for hire by the Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC) at the Silent Valley. There are also some basic rooms for rent at the Rhodo Mansion in Rhodo Valley. Additionally, it is also possible to do this trek the other way, from Munnar to Kolukkumalai. However, keep in mind that if you are coming from the other side, then KFDC tour guides won’t go beyond the point of Meesapulimala. It is, therefore, better to hire a tour guide from Kolukkumalai itself.
A visit to Kolukkumalai will not only serve as a fantastic out-of-the-way destination for adventure and nature lovers in Tamil Nadu, but you will also get to see a small slice from the past at this historic tea estate. The Kolukkumalai tea estate truly still remains untouched by modernization.