Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cameron Highland - Boh Tea Centre and Sg Palas Tea Plantation

Date of Visit : February 2015

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The driver used the main road, from Tanah Rata to Brinchang in reaching Kg Raja to enter into the famous Boh Tea gardens area in Sg Palas. He let us exploring about half an hour inside the Butterfly farm, seated not far from the Equatorial Hotel before gathered us back in his van. Right at the corner not afar from there, Sg Palas directional signs is visible to all. From there the driver took left turn into the narrow hill road, built and maintain by the State Government with a priceless mountainous green view of tea leaves. The junction faces a row of stalls selling fruits and vegetables from the Kea Farm and can be easily missed if not observantly seek. Please take note that Boh Tea centre is closed on Mondays. The tea centre is being operated by Malaysia's largest tea company, BOH. For those who are interested to know more about how the tea is being process may enjoy a free tours available at the tea factory inside the centre. Besides, an interactive educational studio, a retail outlet, and a nice cafe are available for exploration. The stunning vistas of rolling hills amidst a carefully tendered tea plantation are all for you to see in reaching the place. The drive up the hill can be very narrow at stages, so caution should be shown when driving up. The view from the top of nearby hill at the plantation is well worth the effort of climbing up. Trust me, you don’t need a tour once inside the show room. You may able to take lesson from what was shared on the wall. Like I said earlier, there’s a free tour provided by Boh Tea management for all the visitors.

This is a definite must on the list of things to do in Cameron Highlands, I mean a visit to 1 of the Boh Tea Sungei Palas plantation and and Boh Tea Gardens. Sungei Palas is a home to BOH’s newly-built Tea Centre which features a lovely exhibition hall (photos shared from their website), a souvenir and tea shop and the Tea’ria. There is also a firsthand look at how Malaysian tea’s are made using traditional processing methods at the Tea Factory. On our way to the centre, the driver chose quite a small spot along the narrow and winding road to park his van, allowed us to wander a bit and later sharing some historical notes of the enormous place. And I did what I do best, posing for photos :)

BOH Plantations Sdn Bhd is the leading tea grower in Malaysia with 4 tea gardens, naming Boh, Sungei Palas and Fairlie situated in Cameron Highlands whilst the last one, Bukit Cheeding is in Selangor. Their overall tea gardens constituting a total land area of 1200 hectares. With a production capacity approaching 3000kgs per hectare, the Company produces 4 million kgs of tea annually which translates to about 5.5 million cups per day. This represents about 70% of all tea produced in Malaysia.  BOH dominates the domestic retail market. While maintaining its market position locally, the company is also expanding into foreign niche markets. Today BOH exports its brand of prime grade teas to various countries including the USA, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Singapore and Brunei.

After the driver satisfied with his session, answering some Q&A from some of us, we adjourned to BOH Tea Garden, the largest BOH garden in Cameron Highlands to savour a cup of fresh highland tea at BOH’s original tea shop. Don't worry too much, as there's snacks and breads available for you to savor your tea with at the centre. As soon as he parked the van, we were leading to the Boh Tea Factory first. For a day of discovery and relaxation for the whole family, you can’t afford to give these two spots a miss. Do bring your camera along as the BOH's tea gardens have some of the most spectacular views in the Highlands beside a personal shots inside the tea factory and the viewing gallery.

The story of BOH begins in 1890 when seven-year-old J.A. Russell arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya with his father. At that time, the capital was a mishmash of tin miners' shanties, houses built by Chinese immigrants and palatial new buildings designed by British government architects. J.A. was educated in England, but upon his return to Malaya, he began his career in the Straits Trading Company where he became fluent in as many as 5 Chinese dialects as well as Bahasa Melayu. This, together with his close contacts with wealthy Chinese tin-miners, paved the way for his investment in the country's flourishing mining industry. Take note that all the historic story in this entry was what I copied from their website for our mutual points of reference.

In partnership with his brothers Philip, Donald and Robert, J.A. soon started diversifying his business interests. In 1908, he ventured into the rubber industry, which was then still in its infancy. He was also involved in the construction business and, together with Philip, was contracted to build the Kuala Lumpur railway station. In 1913, J.A transacted one of the most remarkable business deals in his career where he acquired almost a third of the town of Ipoh.

Around the same time, he established a colliery at Batu Arang in Selangor. In this venture, he was assisted by his brother Donald, a mining engineer trained at the Colorado School of Mines. Their foresight and initiative helped transform this jungle area into a thriving industrial centre just 25 km from Kuala Lumpur. But it was his business venture in 1929 that has left an indelible mark on the country. J.A. saw the potential of tea as an important crop for Malaya which until that time had been substantially dependent upon rubber and tin. Together with A.B. Milne, a veteran tea planter from Ceylon, he applied for and was granted a concession of land in Cameron Highlands.

Equipped with a single steamroller, some labourers and several mules, they proceeded to transform steep virgin jungle slopes into the tea garden we now know as Boh, the first Highlands tea garden in the country. Thus, BOH Plantations, the current market leader for tea, was born, sometime in 1929.

J.A. Russell was a scholarly yet dynamic person. When he died in 1933 at the early age of 50, the obituary carried by The Malay Mail, the local English language newspaper, aptly described his life in Malaya: 'His whole career has been a business romance of such magnitude that it cannot be compared with the achievements of any other European in Malaya – past or present.'

hundred of years old tea tree 

As a history lover, I must share the following facts of the tea history from the World Diary:

800 : By this time in China, tea was enjoyed by the nobility as an elegant past-time. At the height of the Tang dynasty, the poet Lu Yu wrote the first book on tea 'Cha Ching' or 'The Tea Code' describing its botany, processing, infusing and tasting techniques. The book is today considered a classic literary text.
900 : Tea was introduced to Japan by a Buddhist monk named Saicho. Tea penetrated into the rest of Asia and the Middle East through on-land trade routes before reaching Europe.
1298 : By this time in China, tea was enjoyed by the nobility as an elegant past-time. At the height of the Tang dynasty, the poet Lu Yu wrote the first book on tea 'Cha Ching' or 'The Tea Code' describing its botany, processing, infusing and tasting techniques. The book is today considered a classic literary text.
1484 : Tea's popularity reaches its height when Zen priest Murata Shuko introduced the 'Cha-no-Yu' or 'Hot Water for Tea' ceremony which celebrates the physical, mental as well as spiritual aspects of tea preparation and drinking.
1298 : By this time in China, tea was enjoyed by the nobility as an elegant past-time. At the height of the Tang dynasty, the poet Lu Yu wrote the first book on tea 'Cha Ching' or 'The Tea Code' describing its botany, processing, infusing and tasting techniques. The book is today considered a classic literary text.
1560 : The first European to personally encounter tea and write about it was the Portuguese Jesuit Father Jasper de Cruz, a missionary on Portugal's first commercial trade journey to China. Portugal, the most advanced navy at that time, was the first European country to gain the right of trade with China.
1610 : Tea catches on in the West. The French East India Company established regular trade relations with the Far East, introducing tea into Holland in 1610, France in 1636 and England in 1650.
1644 : Under the charter granted by Elizabeth I, the East India Company had been in contact with China since 1637 but tea only appears on import documents in this year.
1662 : King Charles II of England marries the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza who introduces and makes popular the custom of drinking tea in England.
1773 : American nationalists dump crates of tea from a British ship into the sea in protest over rising taxes imposed by the British colonists. Known today as the Boston Tea Party, the riot served as a catalyst for the American War of Independence.
1800s : Tea grows in demand across the globe. Competition between shipowners for the speediest transportation of tea along the Far East shipping routes lead to the development of the Tea Clipper races
1870 : Ceylon (today, Sri Lanka), one of the biggest names in tea, was a late bloomer. Up to 1870, the country had grown only coffee but in this year, a severe coffee blight attacked and threatened to destroy the entire industry overnight. Panicking, Ceylonese coffee planters turned to the wild Ceylonese tea plant in a desperate gamble to save their fortunes. The bet paid off. Today, Ceylonese tea is widely regarded as some of the best teas in the world.
1929 : J.A. Russell, businessman, scholar and tea pioneer, established Malaysia's first Highlands tea plantations in Cameron Highland
1940s : The United Kingdom is considered to have the highest tea consumption in the world. The country's love of tea is perhaps best represented by the tea card phenomenon which gripped the country during this period. Tea cards were illustrated cards contained in packets of loose leaf tea. Meant to be collected by children as their parents bought tea for household consumption, these cards are now valuable collectors' items, many of which have been illustrated by renowned artists.
Today : India is today's foremost tea-producing country followed by China, Sri Lanka and Kenya. Other major players are Turkey, USSR, Indonesia and Japan.

To end this long entry, let us just enjoy the photos snapped at BOH's centre offers the best view of the whole gardens. The BOH's owner residence right on the top of the hill can be seen from the access road. 

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