Sniffing Around Munnar’s Tea Plantations
An irresistible magnet for tourists throughout the year, Munnar’s lush tea plantations are indeed a visual delight. However, except for the truly discerning, few appreciate the olfactory treat that’s on offer too.
Drive past a softly purring tea factory to savour the unforgettable aroma of freshly fired tea – a pleasure that both the connoisseur and the layman can relish. And if you hang around long enough the fragrance will often rub off on you. In fact, it’s wafted in the air and greets you from over a kilometer away. The experience certainly enhances your enjoyment of the cup that cheers.
Then, when you chance upon a gaggle of tea pickers, scoop up a handful of the freshly plucked leaves and whiff its raw tang for a lingering breath of nature. No doubt, it’s a far cry from your concept of a flavoursome cup of tea – but it’s what produces it!
Wander through the naturally scented eucalyptus plantations that tower over the tea estates. Grown to fuel the tea factories, the giant trees sway majestically in the wind giving off the heady fragrance of eucalyptus, a vital ingredient in aromatic oils and scents that keep perfumeries in business – and unpleasant odours at bay!
Of course, the fragrance of the bewildering variety of local flowers and orchids leaves one enchanted. In winter you’ll enjoy the rich scent of burning firewood, plus the acrid tang of wood smoke, as you huddle near a crackling camp-fire on a freezing night. And if you get to enjoy the luxury of relaxing languorously on a velvety lawn – which many hotels and guesthouses flaunt – you will also relish the earthy rawness of freshly trimmed grass.
Here, as elsewhere, wayside eateries too are a source of olfactory delight. The appetizing aromas drifting from‘thattukadas’ and tea shops beckon you to shed your inhibitions and indulge your taste buds. Great-smelling food is served piping hot.
Then, if you have a nose for history, Munnar’s past is ever present! One can, metaphorically speaking, sniff out its history – in a local tea museum displaying hoary exhibits and planting memorabilia, in old-world planters’ bungalows sporting Victorian-era furniture, in planters’ clubs where British traditions stubbornly live on and in a century-old church replete with British memorial plaques and planters’ graves, not to mention a musty-smelling birth register dating back to the 1880s. To top it all, a local club houses a unique collection of old planters’ hats that literally reeks of antiquity! In Munnar the ‘scent’ of the past remains as strong as ever.
However, given a choice, I would unhesitatingly opt for the enduring whiff of local marigolds, so evocative of my childhood here. They grew in profusion in our garden and left a lingering fragrance when plucked. They still do, magically transporting me back to a halcyon era I can’t quite forget.