Tea is such a feature of the Cameron Highlands that it would be perverse not to visit a plantation during your stay, where you can investigate the growing process and enjoy a local cuppa. Despite the romantic imagery used on packaging, handpicking is now far too labour-intensive to be economical; instead, the small, green leaves are picked with shears. Once in the factory, the leaves are withered by alternate blasts of hot and cold air for sixteen to eighteen hours; this removes around fifty percent of their moisture. They are then rolled by ancient, bulky machines that break up the leaves and release more moisture for the all-important process of fermentation. Following ninety minutes’ grinding, the soggy mass is fired at 90°C to halt the fermentation, and the leaves turn black. After being sorted into grades, the tea matures for three to six months before being packaged and transported to market.
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The following plantations are open to the public, and offer varying attractions:
Boh 8km northeast of Ringlet via Habu (wboh.com.my). See the whole production process – from picking to packing of the tea – at Malaysia’s largest tea producer. Some areas of the tour are extremely dusty, so take a handkerchief to cover your mouth and nose. There’s also a pleasant café on the premises.
Bharat between Ringlet and Tanah Rata (wbharattea.com.my). No tours, but the café serves a range of local teas along with scones and other snacks, and enjoys views out over the tea terraces.
Sungai Palas 6km north of Brinchang (wboh.com.my). The northern Highlands’ branch of the Boh estates, though tea drinking, not tours, is offered here.