Wayanad is a beautiful hill station in the Western Ghats Mountains of Kerala. This area is known for its beautiful greenery and perfect climate. Many people come to see the dramatic waterfalls and caves. With many wildlife sanctuaries, visitors are drawn here to see many different species of animals. It is a very pleasant place to live or visit since it is so quiet and peaceful.
With just one day planned for our visit to Wayanad we had to spend our time wisely. We hired a driver who knew this area very well. He found everything I had on my list to see. His knowledge of tea, coffee, spices, produce and everything Kerala was very impressive. We drove up into the mountains that were covered with a light mist that made the trip more amazing and mysterious.
Our first stop was at the Ripon Tea Estate. We arrived just as the crew of women harvesters was finishing their morning work. Apparently, tea can only be picked in the early morning and the late afternoon when the juices in the leaves are at their peak. The women pick only the top two bright green leaves and the tiny bud of new growth as they are the most tender. These leaves are collected in mesh bags that are carried back to the central loading dock on top of their heads. Each bag is weighed and then loaded on to a truck so the tealeaves taken to the factory to be processed and aged.
Tea bushes are about 2 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide. They are planted close together with just enough room between them for the women who harvest this precious crop to pass between them. Fields of tea plants run up and down the hills of the Western Ghats for drainage. The green fields are absolutely gorgeous as the elevation changes. As a farm manager, I have to admit this is just as beautiful as an Iowa cornfield in July.
Our next stop was a coffee plantation. The Cottanad Plantation was situated on hillsides to allow the rain from the monsoons to run off and not swamp the trees.
The plants grow to a height of about 10 feet. One thing I noticed right away is that several types of trees, including spices and palm trees, grew right along side the coffee trees. At first glance one would think that various seeds were mixed together when the trees were planted but that is not correct. It was intentional. The intermixing of trees of various heights and the shade they offer, do two things. First, the flavor of the coffee beans is enhanced when planted by spice trees. Second, planting under the canopy of taller trees creates shade that improves the yield of the coffee fruit. When the coffee plant fruit turns red (after 7 or 8 months) it is time for them to be picked by hand as they are gathered in buckets and then taken to the factory where they are dried in the sun before they are roasted.
So much of the land in Wayanad is under production with coffee, tea and spices that it is absolutely stunning.
The next stop: Meeting Roopa.
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