No visit to Cameron Highlands would be complete without a visit to the tea plantations of Cameron Valley and Sungei Palas (or more popularly referred to as Sg Palas).
For the uninitiated, Cameron Valley is the tea plantation belonging to the Bharat Family while the Sg Palas tea plantation is that of the ‘BOH’ brand.
Having visited Cameron Valley, one could not be faulted in thinking that a visit to the Sg Palas ‘BOH’ tea plantation would be no different from that of Cameron Valley.
As I rather enjoyed our visit to Cameron Valley, I must admit, I was pretty excited at the prospect of visiting the Sg Palas BOH tea plantation. Especially when the BOH brand is rather a favourite of mine.
And so we made our way to the Sg Palas tea plantation, and to get to the Sg Palas tea plantation, we had to make our way to Brinchang and from there, make our way to the plantation located not that far away.
The journey to the plantation itself was quite eventful as we had to, first, endure the Brinchang ‘ traffic jam’ and then later, the Sg Palas ‘traffic jam’, as we made our way to the plantation.
The Brinchang ‘traffic jam’ was due to an ongoing experiment to try out a new traffic plan as the previous traffic arrangements were given a royal thumbs down, with what was described as ‘rather haphazard’.
Understandable that. The ‘traffic jam’, that is.
But the Sg Palas ‘traffic jam’ is something else. A tarred road, two lanes : one going in and one going out. One siding the sides of the hill and the other, with the slopes of the hill covered with dense foliage as a sidedrop. Ok if traffic is just sedans and compacts.
But holiday seekers travel in all shapes and form of vehicles.Some travel in their sedans, some travel in their SUVs, and some make the journey in a travel coach. So the name of the game is patience (lots of it!) and a give-and-take (lots of it too!).
The appearance of the local police directing traffic indicated that we were already nearing the plantation. And before long, having parked our car, we were making our way to the Sg Palas Visitor’s Centre, and passing several plots of tea shrubs along the way to the main station.
From arriving at the Sg Palas Visitor’s Centre, from where we were standing, we noted that the centre is made up of a cafeteria, the BOH tea shop, information centre and a tea factory.
Having noted all that, the first order of business was to get a drink at the cafeteria and maybe, just maybe, some scones with butter and jam (strawberry of course!) and enjoy the view from the viewing deck.
But lo and behold, the sight of the long queue and the cafeteria jam-packed with visitors, laid waste our plans. Must have been due to the long weekend holiday that.
So we opted for a long cool drink of one of those tea concoctions (tea with mango and peach respectively, to be exact) instead. To go, of course and minus the scones and the butter and the jam (strawberry, but of course!).
Since we could not avail ourselves of a table, never you mind a table with a view of the plantation itself, drinks in hand, we made our way to the Tea Shop.
The Tea Shop is a tea connoisseur’s heaven of the BOH brand. The varieties of tea to choose from, some of which I did not even know existed.
Whats even more surprising, they have been around more than for a few years. But then again, that’s me.
Going through the process of what tea to buy can be a tedious affair, as I found out to my amazement. My better half however is more of a tea drinker than I am, and so the choices of tea to buy was left to her. Good decision that, I thought.
Having bought and paid for our selection of tea, we then made a beeline for the tea processing factory. The highlight of the visit, for me at least.
The tea processing facility was opened in 1935 and was reopened in 1972. Why and when it was closed, we could not find any answers to that. For now, that is.
Apparently, the whole process of making tea is made up of harvesting (or plucking), withering, rolling, fermentation, drying, sorting, tasting, and packing. Quite simple and logical really, come to think of it.
But to witness the processes being played out is quite a thrill, nerd that I am. It was wondrous to note that some of the machines, like that used in the rolling process, dated back to 1935. And what makes it even more wondrous is that those machines are still in use in 2017. A rarity that.
I also noted that the employees manning the tea processing facility tend to be quite matured. Long term employees, most likely. And with their wealth of experience, it does make sense.
Having been in and out of the processing facility, we wandered around the grounds of the Visitor’s Centre, snapping moments in time, not knowing when we’ll be back this way again.
It was not long after that we took leave of the Sg Palas BOH tea plantation, to make our way back to our accommodation at Tanah Rata.
The journey out was as eventful as the journey in, negotiating bends and incoming traffic at the same time.
But as the journey in, patience (lots of it) and a give-and-take attitude, will soon get you back, all in one piece.
It was as good that, the visit to Sg Palas, as the visit to Cameron Valley was. For different reasons, it must be stressed though.
However, the sight of vast ranges of tea shrubs, ready for plucking, does bring back reality to mind and that being the shrubs represents one of the biggest money earners for the local and national economy, with its products marketed not only locally but also in international markets.
And for BOH, it’s all down to that one man, J A Russel, who in 1929, established the BOH tea plantations despite the onset of the Great Depression. Fancy that.
But whatever and however one looks at it, one thing is for sure. Drinking tea, for me at least, will be never be the same again.