Saturday, 3 October 2015

Cameron Highland 19th Sept 2015 - Sungai Palas Boh Tea Center

Ever since I saw the  TV advert for BOH Tea many years ago, I yearn to see the beautiful scenery shown.
BOH Tea Plantation is a must-visit place when you are in Cameron Highlands Scenic, tranquil & cool fresh air! It's an icon...and a beautiful one.  If You Haven't Seen It, You Ain't Been To Cameron.

Most tea estates are mostly owned by Boh, the larger group established since 1929 by colonial owners; and Bharat, a slightly more recent local company that only began full-scale operations in the 1950s.
Getting There. (GPS coordinates: N4.51579 E101.41634)

You can find the entrance to the plantation if you coming from Simpang Pulai before the big Equatorial Hotel on the right side heading south to Brinchang . The signboard is placed perpendicular to the road and quite easy to miss especially when you're driving fast

Likewise, if you're coming from Brinchang town, the plantation is located about 5km North or 2km away from Kea Farm Market.Short drive off the main road after a large signboard that clearly indicates the way to Sungai Palas Tea Center.

The BOH Tea Centre is open daily except Monday from 9.00 am - 4.30 pm. Admission to the factory visit is free and information tours are conducted approximately every 30 minutes.

The journey itself is an adventure as you manoeuvre the narrow and winding road till the visitiors parking of Sungai Palas BOH Tea Centre.  The total journey from the Brinchang Main Road to the Tea Centre parking area is approximately 3.5KM.

Perhaps there is no plans to upgrade the road as to help you remembering them the concept of  "shock and awesome" applied here. First the width of the roads are really narrow and winding that it could barely fit two cars side by side then while you're heartbeat is faster than normal... treat you to amazing scenic views over the area.

Not a place for beginner drivers. You could have easily plunged into the ravine if you had been a novice driver.

After leading to a small, pretty treacherous with narrow winding roads, we stop at the main gate. We were reward with the first sight of magnificent panorama view of vast tea fields stretched across the valley and slopes on the way.

 The early bird has just made the queue for the gate to open at 8.30am but do not double queue as
to let the workers vehicles to pass first. 
To avoid going through traffic jams due to the influx of tourists to the plantation, make sure you go early and leave early to avoid being trapped in traffic hours. 

An Indian temple with side wall painted red and white stripes nearby parking compound

Welcome sign to Boh sungai palas tea estate

 Did anyone notice the old spelling of Sungai Palas was "Sungei Palas"?

Private cars were not allowed to drive up to the doorstep but tour vans and hired cars were able to do so.

Ample parking spaces are available.  Basic toilet facility is available here.

Visitors can park their car and walk up to the Tea Centre which is only 200 meters. You can choose to either walk up the tea planter's bush walk or paved road.

 Your choice, either walking up on a smooth tar road to walk but nothing much to see.

 or walking on the trails to the top for a magnificent view!

 Tea leaves was sprayed with pesticides.

My itchy fingers was about to pluck the leaves but stopped when I see the sign. Sigh...
Boh Tea Center also a favourite spots for pre-wedding outdoor photography. As we arrived we found a couple having a pre wedding photo session.

Harvesting: Tea bushes are harvested approximately every three weeks. The leaves are packed into sacks and sent to the factory for processing.

Only the most tender leaves are picked every morning at Sungai Palas BOH’s tea plantation. Green tea leaves are hand plucked when the new growth or flush appears. Tea used to be plucked by hand as the workers move laboriously through the long rows of low tea bushes.

Innovation and research within the Company has led to a mechanisation and upgrading of its operations. Labour-saving device or method is one that saves a lot of effort and time-saving method.

In the highland gardens, the most common plucking method used is the two-man hand-held machine which is assisted by winches. These machines can harvest up to 300 kgs of green leaf per man per day, 10 times more than traditional hand plucking. 

Modern two man tea harvesting machine to trim tea bushes 

On the steepest slopes where access is limited, shears are used and can bring in about 120kgs per man per day.

In the lowland garden at Bukit Cheeding where the land is flatter and more accessible, BOH uses specially-designed vehicular harvesters which pluck 9000 kgs of green leaf a day! 

BOH Tea Plantation Bukit Cheeding, Selangor
Finally, the tea has to be sorted. The youngest leaves - newly opened leaves - make the first grade tea. The second youngest make second grade tea and the third oldest make the third grade tea. The older the leaf, the stronger the flavour. The newest shoots make the finest tea.

Old ways. A tea plucker at work at BOH Plantations’ tea garden. 

Tea plucking machines should not replace workers but...

Hand-plucked teas are rich in their green-leaf biochemical precursors and have higher contents of made-tea quality constituents than machine-plucked teas but lower yields. The traditional method fresh tea leaves are plucked by hand  to ensure the highest quality. 

Although machine plucker can harvest more but it certainly not as discriminating in choosing and plucking, 'just the right leaves' as a skilled tea plucker. A skill plucker can only harvest about 20 kg of tea a day. 

One of these days, tea pluckers are ageing. They are getting older, and the younger generation does not want to pluck tea. Someday tea plantation will no longer employed tea pickers and replaced by plucking machines. And if that day comes,  tea pickers will be something in the past.

A tea plucker will pluck the tea bushes taking two leaves and a bud using both hands,
ensure that the buds are not damaged.

Narrow rays of sunshine slice their way between the tree branches, so endearment.

I See The Light..The burning bush? 

Rays of Sunshine, ... We thank the Lord for the blessings he's bestowed upon us. 

As I made my way up, I could see the famous Boh Tea Center with its unique structure with a far end 20ft overhanging platform balcony. It was intended to made protruding over the hilltop. This may feel a little precarious but the purpose is to give visitors a more commanding view overlooking the plantation.This balcony is a favourite spot for visitors as they immerse themselves in the beauty of the surroundings while savouring one of BOH's many types of tea.

My first impressions of the Boh Tea Center structure is....Oh, my God! I think I've found Noah's Ark, stranded on the mountain.

Halfway up the hill I take a breather and you can find a good spot like this for an amazing photo shoot. Their beauty simply took my breath away.
The RM3mil teahouse, with its stylish and contemporary architecture, seats 120 patrons and is commonly listed as a must-see on the itineraries of tourists visiting the highlands.The Boh Tea Centre Sungai Palas is a glass building supported by steels with solid roofs. The entire building can get natural sunlight through the panel glass walls and windows and a huge open space balcony stick out from the edge of a hill. It is an unique structure, one could hardly find that is quite like it in Malaysia.

View from half way up the mountain.

 A steady stream of visitors had been making their way up the mountain. Take your time.
Paths can be slippery and muddy – especially after rain.
Watch your step.Some of the hand rails and walking tracks need to be repaired. Although a short climb
 on the steps but  for safety reason  ladies, no high heels please. 

Looking back again on our way up.
What a view...Boh Tea is the largest producer of tea in Malaysia

Narrow ray of sunshine slive their way between the tree branches, so endearment.

 A sweet mom and daughter moment

Climbs That'll Make You Feel Like You've Conquered Everest.  Alas, I'm here

When we waiting for it to open at 9am, the tea cafe was already bustling with hungry locals and tourists

I go grabbed a seat while my sister stood in line to order. Some tour groups got to seat at
 the terrace, we just have to wait for them to finish their breakfast and leave.
 Bon Appetit or Boh appetite. Remember to say the catch words, “BOH ada Ummph!”

It's hard being a Malaysian and eating just cakes and pie for breakfast. We  supplement our breakfast with Nasi Lemak which is one of the typical choices for most Malaysians.

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water. We're a tea-drinking nation, not that we don't like coffee but this comes from the legacy left behind by British colonialism habit of having afternoon tea.  It's also common to hear customers in mamak restaurants shouting, "Mamak Teh Tarik Satu!” And the reply from the restaurant staff will be, “Yes, boss!

We are having breakfast there, the taste is just acceptable, but quite expensive for me and local tourists but
 what the heck... it's not everyday I come here. Great setting for breakfast tho.

After the tour group has left, other tourists rushed in to get the best spot to view the plantation 

I don't know whether my Mom pulling my leg, "I finally know where BOH tea comes from".
 Maybe it's time for new BOH tv commercial perhaps?

 What does BOH stand for?  The abbreviation BOH stands for 'Best Of Highlands'?  Someone is making up a rumor about this or the actual name ‘Boh’ is derived from Bohlia - the origin of tea in the Szechuan province of ancient China. Anyone can verify this please?

The history of tea is long and complex, spreading across multiple cultures over the span of thousands of years.  Tea likely originated in southwest China during the Shang dynasty as a medicinal drink.The British introduced tea production, as well as tea consumption, to India, in order to compete with the Chinese monopoly on tea.

Ummph! What is it mean? It means gets a kick out drinking Boh tea, enjoy very much and say "Ummph".
Same like Cowboys say, Yeehaw or Yee-haw when expressing joy.

Don't forget to get a gift before going back to your hometown at souvenir shop 
You can purchase BOH tea full range products here. I'm not sure about the price though, as compared with other places but you can be sure due to tea's freshness will help make the tea taste better.

 Basically there are 3 types and they are the Black Tea, Green Tea and Oolong Tea. BOH teas are available in 3 different forms (tea packets, tea bags, tea dust).
 At the BOH plantation, the teas are called: BOH Palas Supreme (this is the newest shoots and the finest quality tea), BOH Cameronian Gold (this is first grade tea), BOH Tea (second grade) and BOH Tiger Tea (third grade).

Tea for two? One for you, one for me. No Ma'am, We don't serve Chinese tea here, only BOH tea.

The company produces four million kg of tea annually, translating to about 5.5 million cups of tea per day. And about 70% of all tea produced in Malaysia comes from the Boh gardens. Besides being the leading brand in Malaysia, Boh also exports to Brunei, Singapore, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and the US.
Most of the best quality tea produced in Malaysia is sent abroad and most of the tea remaining in the country is a poor quality one used to make the delicious Teh Tarik (tea with condensed sweet milk).

So which grade of tea we were served? It doesn't matter anyway. Cause I really enjoy sipping a cup of freshly brewed cup of BOH tea.

What is in tea?
The three primary components of brewed tea (also called the "liquor") are:
1. Essential Oils - these provide tea's delicious aromas and flavors.
2. Polyphenols - these provide the "briskness" or astringency in the mouth and are the components that also carry most of the health benefits of tea.
3. Caffeine - found naturally in coffee, chocolate, tea and Yerba Mate, caffeine provides tea's natural energy boost.

Benefits of Tea:

 Recent research has indicated that drinking tea as part of a healthy diet and life style can help maintain a healthy body including a healthy heart.

The value of tea may be due, in part, to its antioxidants. Like fruit and vegetables, tea is rich in antioxidants. (In tea these are known as flavonoids). Antioxidants in the diet may help the body in its management of free radicals – highly reactive substances capable of causing damage to body cells.
You learn a little bit of history from the boards hanging on the wall and even a have a video room where you can  learn the process of making tea in Boh Plantations

BOH Plantations was founded in 1929 by J.A. Russel, a British businessman during the British colonial era in Malaya. He was optimistic of the tea plantation business due to huge demands despite of the world-wide Great Depression at that time. As a result of the potential, he applied for and was granted a concession of land for his first tea garden in Habu, Cameron Highlands.

Today, BOH Plantations owns four tea gardens, based primarily in Cameron Highlands with three large plantations across Ringlet and Brinchang. The main estate sits at Habu in Ringlet next to its immediate neighbour Fairlie Garden, while Sungai Palas is a sister plantation about 20km away in Brinchang. The forth is at Bukit Cheeding in Selangor.

To ensure the freshness of its tea products, BOH Plantations also set up a packaging factory near its main garden. BOH tea products are distributed both in domestic and international markets.

Boh tea board of directors, Caroline Russell, a Malaysian, is the CEO. Her step-father,
Tristan Russell, remains in the company as chairman

A small museum, one of a kind is an ancient rolling machine which pounding leaves into bits

The Sg Palas Tea Centre is open everyday except Monday Closed, from 9:00am to 4:30pm. Factory tours are provided approximately every 30 minutes.
Visit the adjacent tea factory to observe how the tea manufacturing process really is.

All teas undergo five basic processing steps in the tea manufacturing process are been briefed and
explained by self-explanatory signage
While the whole process is rather intricate, it is can best be summarised in a five-step process:

Withering: The leaves are put in troughs or bins with warm dry air running through them for about 12 to 20 hours. This removes the moisture content from the leaves.

Rolling: This crushes the leaf cells while proccessing leaves into smaller particles. It also exposes the cells to oxygen.

Fermentation: Also known as oxidation, this is the critical stage that determines the flavour, aroma and colour of the tea. Therefore, timing, humidity and temperature have to be carefully controlled. After fermentation, the tea leaves turn copper in colour, and the characteristic aroma of tea develops.

Drying: A blast of hot air is passed through the leaves to stop the fermentation process. This is when the leaves emerge in their familiar, crisp, black, curled form.

Sorting: The off-grades, fibres and stalks are removed by running the tea through several machines. A vibroscreen is used to sort and grade the tea leaves according to size.

The actual tea factory is still left intact in its old condition and still operating.

Tea tasting: The taster examines each sample of dry tea leaves for colour, texture, amount of twist and evenness of grade. The infused leaves are examined for colour, uniformity and brightness. Next, he tastes the tea for taste, flavour and aroma.

Packaging: The tea leaves are packaged and ready for the market.

Due to time constraints we decided to leave the Boh Tea Center as there are limited time for our visit.
I leave with a heavy heart but I hope that someday I can come back to this wonderful place soon.

We walk down using the paved road to avoid the crowds begin streaming in the afternoon using
 the  planter's bush walk. Nothing to see except some violet wild flowers.

 In my case, I made it quite easily to the plantation in the morning, then, tourists are starting to come in greater numbers to visit, it took us slightly longer to get back to the main road, and back on my way.

Honk! Honk! Do give a honk or two while negotiating a blind corner to let the oncoming traffic knows there is a car coming but be don't be too aggresive when sounding your horn. 

Overview of my visit to Boh Tea Center

The Good Side.

1. An unspoiled haven for those who appreciate nature, fresh air, peace, calm and quietness. Just two weeks after I came back to Seremban, I read in the papers that age-old Mossy Forest in Gunung Brinchang, famed for its exotic flora and lush mossy carpets, has been closed for a lengthy period due to excessive littering. Local tourists apparently are major culprits in littering .

2. Boh Tea Plantation has a clean environment. You won't see  rubbish strewn all over the place. To keep the premises and surrounding area clean, I hope  the cafeteria will avoid having plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws. Say No to Plastic Bags, Say No food to Tapau/Takeaway.

3. Well maintained & clean toilet with various features "will be a plus for tourism". Their toilet is truly one of the best public toilets in all of Cameron.

4.  Sungai Palas Boh Tea is a photographer's haven, you will always wish you had taken more shots.

The downside.

1. It’s not elderly people nor wheelchair friendly.   The walk up using the planter's bush walk is a bit tough for the elderly. No problem for those going in tour van as will carry them up to the doorstep.

2. There is no setting up a customer service counter to answer your questions. If there's a problem, you want it taken care of as quickly, seamlessly, and painlessly ...we don't who to turn to for Help.

3. Lack of safety.  Visitors need to exercise caution while walking up the using bush walk, some of the hand rails and walking tracks need to be repaired.

4. The pathway to the Sungai Palas Garden is just along the hillside, it's kinda steep, narrow road and dangerous slope. In other words, such accidents are like a time bomb ticking in some operation was bound to happen.

It is not fair for the whole burden on Boh plantation.  Danger lurking below the narrow edges of the winding road to the  most popular tourist destinations in CH. Bad publicity which would be bad for Malaysia tourism if anything should happen.

In fact, it's long overdue that the Federal and state governments, the Ministry of Finance, the Works Ministry and other government agencies should put emphasis on widening and building better roads and public amenities to cater to the number of tourists, both local and foreign.

Government PWD should ensure the  road is safe to travel as supposed to serve both the locals as well as the tourists visiting the Sungai Palas tea centre.

Before this visit, I didn't have a single clue on the world of tea ... I had never really thought about it like do you know like all tea is made from the same plant.  Oh yes, make no mistake about it, all tea, whether it's black, oolong, green, white, or pu-erh, comes from the Camellia sinensis plant.
 The same plant is used to produce different types of tea; each undergo a different oxidation process and blend that result in their unique flavours, aroma and colour.

In Cameron Highlands, black tea is the most popular variety of tea produced, followed by Oolong and green tea. The dark tint of tea is the result of its chemical compunds, chiefly being tannin leached into the water by heating.

It's time for a coffee break! ... Oh I meant tea break.  "Shaken not stirred", Nah.

Mamak! Teh Tarik Satu!!!! Kurang manis wokay.


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