From Kuala Lumpur we headed out via coach, which was very spacious and loads of legroom for the 3 ½ hour journey to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands, though it seemed like forever getting out of traffic choked Kuala Lumpur we were soon on the toll roads and quickly made progress, until we got onto the smaller roads heading up into the highlands, narrow, twisty and turning with sheer drops on one side, slowing progress down considerably, however we pulled into Tanah Rata on time and it was just a short walk to our apartment, which was over a shopping mall. Once we’d picked up the key we settled in with a cuppa then went for a wander round town, picked up some groceries and had dinner, we had already pre-booked a tour of one of the tea plantation for the next day.
As any of you have read we are avid compulsive tea drinkers so jumped at the chance to see a plantation. We went with a small eco-tour operator, based on reviews we had read, and we were not disappointed. We met our tour guide/driver at 8am and we were in a small group of 6, loaded up into a Land rover we set off first to Mossy Forest, though the roads to get there were very narrow, steep, winding and seriously pot-holed, the necessity of the 4 x 4 soon became evident as the roads became little more than gravel, shale and sand.
At Mossy Forest our guide gave us a very detailed and informed talk about the various trees, mosses, flora, fauna and wildlife to be found in this whole area, it was so fascinating especially with the large carnivorous plants and medicinal plants and berries. It was still quite early and the sun shining through the moss covered trees was really quite breath-taking and the birdsong chorus was so uplifting to hear.
Our guide pointed out various anomalies such as banana ‘plants’ that due to the altitude, there is not enough warmth/sunlight for them to bear fruit, the ferns that grew into twenty metre fern trees, various leaves that when crushed smelt like ‘Tiger Balm’, or citronella ‘leaves’ that were used as mossie repellent. From Mossy forest we drove along more bumpy roads towards the Boh Tea plantation.
This is where we caught our first glimpses of the plantations covering every visible hillside, stopping at a viewpoint we got out to have a wander amongst the tea bushes though we had to be aware where we were walking due to scorpions and two types of venomous snakes present amongst the tea bushes. It was a beautiful sight, tea bushes in neat lines curving over every contour of the hillsides, bright green of the new leaves ‘tips’ and the dark green of the older leaves near the ground.
The new shoots re-grow every 21 days after picking either by hand (very labour intensive), scissors or a 2 person held machine with a petrol motor and blades similar to a hedge trimmer that saws the young shoots and they collect in a large sack attached to the machine, after some more photos and admiring the view we continued on into the tea plantation itself.
We were shown through the factory to see the process from field to tea bag which was very fascinating, Boh Tea is one of only a few producers in the world that plants, picks, processes, packs and markets it’s branded tea, easily ensuring quality standards are met throughout the entire process, the Boh plantation was planted in the 1920’s by an English family, descendants of which are still running it today, once planted a tea ‘bush’ takes 5 years to reach maturity for picking tea leaves, although the tea plant is most often referred to as being an evergreen shrub, when left in the wild undisturbed it grows into a tree with a bowl-shaped canopy.
Needless to say after seeing all this glorious tea, we were itching to try it, first stop was the shop where we bought a few boxes of English Breakfast, the traditional blend, and a variety of fruit teas, then onto the café with a raised outdoor terrace which overlooks the plantation fields below for a pot of freshly brewed loose-leaf tea, and it did not disappoint, we had it nice and simple with no milk and it was delicious.
Laden with our booty of tea bags we headed back down to meet our guide and we headed back through the plantation and into town where we were dropped off near our apartment. Cameron Highlands are famous not only for their tea but also strawberries which are grown everywhere you look(though a lot are under poly-tunnels), as well as honey, with bee farms all over the place, and generally as a rich vegetable growing area due to favourable climate. The afore mentioned strawberries I had to try, this was in a hard to find café but had great reviews, in the form of a cream tea, homemade scones with local strawberry jam and cream, very tasty, Rich had another favourite apple pie and ice-cream, both of course with a cup of Boh tea!
We were only here a couple of days as we were here solely for the tea, and from Tanah Rata we caught a coach over the hills and onto Ipoh, though the journey there was full of twists and turns and narrow roads and we were both glad when the coach got onto the main highway into Ipoh as we both felt slightly queasy from the bumpy ride. Our Airbnb apartment wasn’t quite ready for check-in so we killed some time in a coffee shop, then headed over to a shopping mall to pick up some groceries, by which time our apartment was ready and we headed over to meet our host.