Saturday, 23 February 2013

The tea museums of India

There are a variety of museums relating to a wide spectrum of  topics right from history, geography, folk art, folk dolls, dance, drama, music, literature, automobiles and what not.
But this museum should surely take the cake for it is one of its kind in India and certainly a rarity even in this age. This is the Tea Museum in Kerala and it is located in a tea estate in Munnar, which is one of the most beautiful spots in God’s own country as Kerala is called.
The museum was started by Tata Tea, which is one of the most recognized brands in India. Since the Tata group was one of the pioneers of tea cultivation in Munnar, it thought it fit to start a museum in its estate in Munnar.       
It is called the Tata Tea Museum and it is a connoisseur’s delight as it can give you a history of tea and the phases of development that it underwent over the last few decades.
The museum is in the Nallathanni Estate and it chronociles the beginning of tea plantation, the equipments used then and the brands of tea that have emerged from the estate.
The highlight of the museum should be a rare sundial which is placed on a granite bock. This beautiful device was crafted in 1913 by the Art Industrial School at Nazareth, Tamil Nadu.
Another exhibit which attracts attention is a original tea roller called the Rotorvane. The device was manufactured in 1905 and was used for CTC type tea processing.
CTC means “Crush, Tear, and Curl” and also “Cut, Twist and  Curl”  and it is a method of processing black tea. In this process, the tea leaves are passed through a series of cylindrical rollers with hundreds of small sharp “teeth” that crush, tear, and curl the tea.
Apart from this CTC, there is a “Pelton Wheel” widely used in  power generation plant that existed in Kanniamallay estate in the 1920s. The Kanniamallay estate was part of a series of estates in Munnar that Tatas named as Kannan Devan tea estates
Another exhibit that will captivate visitors is the rail engine of the Kundale Valley Light Railway, which carried men and material between Munnar and Top Station during 1900s.
There are a few exhibits that do not relate to tea but were found in the Tea estates such as a burial urn dating back from the second century BC. The urn was discovered near Periakanal estate.
The museum also has a section exhibiting classic bungalow furniture, typewriters, wooden bathtub, magneto phone, iron oven, manual calculators and even an EPABX or telephone exchange of the 1909 telephone system.
The best place in the museum is the demonstration room for tea tasting.  It is here that we come across varieties of tea. Visitors are also made aware of  various stages of processing tea and even preparing black tea.
The museum is open on all days of the week and there is a en entrance fee.
Munnar is a hill station in Idukki district in Kerala. It is situated at the confluence of three rivers-Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala.
Munnar is part of the Annamalai Ranges, with south India's highest peak Anamudi. Munnar easily accessible by road. The nearest airports are Nedumbassery in Kochi, Kovai in Coimbatore and Madurai. It is hardly four hours by road from these places. The nearest railway stations are Alwaye,  Ernakulam, Madurai and Coimbatore.
Another  tea museum is at Dodabetta in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. It was opened in 2005 and covers an area of once acre.
The museum has three sections:Origin of World tea, Tea history in India and finally Evolution of Tea in the Nilgiris. You can also check out facts on how tea as a beverage is made and how it is traded.
However, the credit for the tea museum at the highest point in India is at Darjeeling, West Bengal. This is described as India’s first  working tea museum and it is located at a height of  6,800 feet at the foothills of Himalayas.
The museum is at the Happy Valley Tea Estate in the fringes of Darjeeling town on Wednesday. Assam is also planning on a tea museum at its capital of Gawhati.
India has a long history of tea cultivation. It began in the 1820 when the East India Company commenced tea cultivation in Assam. Today, India is one of the largest tea producers in the world, though over seventy per cent of the tea is consumed within India itself.
India is listed as the world’s leading producer, its 715,000 tons well ahead of China’s 540,000 tons. However, because Indians average half a cup daily on per capita basis,  70 per cent of India's immense crop is consumed locally.

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