XXXV – Where on earth can you find the best honey, strawberries and tea plantations? The answer: in rainy Cameron Highlands, of course!

Cameron Highlands (a small district in the state of Pahang) is a famous hill resort with its 4 small towns. I stayed in the small, charming town called Tanah Rata. Once there, you quickly understand all what Cameron Highlands has to offer: beautiful treks in the mountains, cooler temperatures/raining weather (felt a bit like being back at home!), delicious strawberries, tasty honey and stunning tea plantations!

A honey bee farm where visitors can get learn about bees and honey production.

After days spent at the beach, I was more than ready for a change of scenery. And, strangely enough, I felt that going to the countryside would bring me more than the seaside. So, this trip in the mountains was exactly what I needed.

First, I went to visit one of the three existing honey bee farms. There, I got to learn a bit more about bees and honey production.

Pic of a part of the apiary.

I walked around the apiary (also known as a bee yard) which is the place where beehives of honey bees are kept.

The Queen... Hahahaaa

It looked a bit like a Disneyland for bees… really funny!!

And, at the end of the visit, I tasted Cameron Highland’s famous honey, of course! It was delicious, especially if you dip a strawberry in warm honey liquid. Too bad my backpack is not like Mary Poppins’ bag (unlimited space), because otherwise I would have bought ALL the various honey products available here! (Mom, you would have loved it).

Strawberry pots !?!

Then, I faced the raining weather and went to visit one of the nearby strawberry farm.

I was quite surprised by this farm because it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Instead of fields, there were pots and pots of strawberries, aligned one behind another. So strange…

Home-made strawberry lollipops! Yummy!

But locals are really proud of their locally grown, small, tasty strawberries. And I have to admit all their home-made strawberry products looked amazing and tasted delicious: candies, juices, smoothies, ice creams,…

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Beautiful tea plantations.

Finally, no trip to Cameron Highlands is complete without a trip to the Boh tea plantations.

Their 5-steps process was described to us as we walked through the factory.

The 5-steps process of tea making

Tea plantations!!!

Me in the middle of tea plantations!

Even thought I am more a “coffee drinker” myself, I found it so interesting! Before this visit, I didn’t have a single clue on the world of tea making! I had never really thought about it, never imagined where these little tea bags came from…

Below detailed explanations on each step come from the factory. So keep on reading if you want to know more about the tea-making process 😉

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Old scale to weigh the tea leaves.

Gunny sacks were once used to transport tea leaves.

On the steepest slopes, shears are used instead of machines.

…………………………………………………………..Step 0: Harvest the tea leaves — Two-man machines and winches are used and can harvest up to 300 kgs of green leaf per man per day! 10 times more than traditional hand-plucking. But, on the steepest slopes, shears are used and can bring in about 120 kgs per man per day!

Step 1: Withering — They blow dry air on the fresh tea leaves in order to remove any moisture.

Tea leaves are placed into such a rolling machine, which rotates horizontally on the rolling table. This action creates the twisted wiry looking tea leaves.

Step 2: Rolling — In the past, leave rolling was done by hand, but now, they have rollers machines (named Rotovanes; dated back to 1935). These machines twist and break the withered  leaves, distorting and rupturing its internal cells, liberating and exposing its juices for fermentation.

Step 3: Fermentation or oxydation — It’s a natural chemical process in which enzymes in the leaves are exposed to oxygen.

Fermentation phase - Tea leaves are put on trays.

The broken leaves are spread onto trays. The leaves initial color is light or dark green but at the end of fermentation they turn into a coppery color. Even though it’s done within 2 hours, this is the most critical stage of manufacturing, during which the characteristic flavour and aroma are developed. Therefore, the process has to be carefully controlled for optimum results!

Step 4: Drying — This stage is somewhat similar to the withering stage of the leaves. The fermented leaves are fed into machines through which hot air is passed at temperatures nearing 100 degrees Celsius! This stops the fermentation action, reduces the moisture content to less than 3% and crystallizes the juices, thus converting the leaves into its familiar crisp black form. The drying process is completed in 20 minutes! Pretty quick!

Step 5: Sorting — After drying, stalks and fibres are removed from the end product. But before being packed, the made tea is graded by size. Each grade of tea has its own density and flavour characteristics. There are 4 main grades: Leaf, Broken, Fanning, Dust.             “Leaf”- this indicates made tea whose whole leaf is intact.                                                   “Broken” – indicates made tea whose leaf is broken.                                                         “Fanning” – Small broken grades. .                                    ………………………….                                “Dust” – the smallest grade. Commonly blended with fanning and used in tea bags because they steep quicker.

My first cup of Boh Tea !

After I learned all to know about the tea making process, I sat down and enjoyed my first cup of BOH tea at the cafe. The view overlooking the plantations was just stunning!

View from the cafe! Stunning!

Even tought it rained most of the time I spent in Tanah Rata (one of Cameron Highland’s little town), I had a great time and learned so much about honey, tea and strawberries! Besides, I come from Belgium… a little rain doesn’t scare me 😉

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