Tea Drinking in the Cameron Highlands
Featured destinations: Malaysia
Published 30 March 2016
© Angela GriffinThis involved an exciting hike through the mossy forest, more challenging than we expected due to the humidity, tramping over twisted tree roots and under fallen trunks. It was sweaty work, but we had the path to ourselves, allowing us to go at our own pace. We were able to stop when we spotted some of Malaysia’s rather freaky wildlife – troupes of monkeys shrieking and jumping through the treetops, giant millipedes, elegant orchids, various colourful sunbirds and the rafflesia, the world’s largest flower.
© Angela GriffinWe emerged from the jungle and followed the road uphill for three miles, winding past fields and vegetable farms to the Boh Tea Estate. Here you can learn all about the tea making process on a factory tour, but for us the first stop was to sample a cup of the local brew.Now’s the time I should probably make a confession – I am not a big tea drinker. I know this is almost unspeakable for an English person, but it’s true. I never really got into drinking it when I was younger, and often find it far too strong and bitter, preferring coffee or just plain water. But, with the coffee in Malaysia resembling treacle, I had taken to drinking tea instead.
© Angela GriffinSitting in the café, looking out over the estate with its vividly green tea plants stretching as far the eye can see, I sipped on a freshly-brewed cup of milky tea. Made with leaves rather than tea bags, this was the best cup of tea I have ever had. The flavour was so delicate, not bitter, just refreshing and comforting, like a good brew should be.We fully indulged our Englishness and had our tea accompanied by freshly-baked scones, butter and homemade strawberry jam. It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. Yes I know, we came half way around the world to eat tea and scones, but we loved it – it was a little taste of home amongst the freneticism and unfamiliarity of Southeast Asia.Too tired and full of scones and tea to walk back to Tanah Rata, we took a taxi. That didn’t stop us indulging in some wonderfully aromatic Malay-Indian curry with roti for dinner though.
© Angela GriffinWe had planned to stay in the Cameron Highlands for just two nights, giving us the day to explore the tea plantations before continuing to Penang. But we loved our day in the hills so much we extended for another, and this time trekked to one of the many strawberry farms. This was a much simpler hike than the day before and we were rewarded for our efforts with fresh strawberries, strawberry ice cream and strawberry juice. It’s possible to pick your own fruit if you wish to, but we just had a look around the greenhouses and saw the berries sitting in neat rows of plump redness.
© Angela Griffin
Ye Olde Smokehouse © Angela GriffinWalking back from the Strawberry Farm we stumbled across a sign proclaiming ‘Ye Olde Smokehouse’ on the side of a hill. Feeling inquisitive we had a look and, lo and behold, there was an English pub built in mock-Tudor style with wooden beams, white walls, open fireplaces and heaps of old-world charm. Built in 1937, the Smokehouse is modelled on its namesake in Mildenhall in England, with the hope that its presence would make British colonists feel more at home. Testing the theory, we pulled up a table on the manicured lawns and devoured yet more scones, tea and jam. Feeling rather stuffed, we headed back Tanah Rata, but not before we spotted an ornamental red telephone box, as if cut straight from the streets of London.It’s a bizarre little place, the Cameron Highlands: a slice of the English countryside in the middle of tropical Malaysia. It seemed a world away when we reached Georgetown the following day. But to escape the heat and sit down to the most invigorating cuppa I’ve ever had, it’s a must-do stop on any Malaysian itinerary.
Visit the Cameron highlands with Round the World Experts’ Culture, Highlands & Beach Journey.You might also like:Why You Should Visit Penang24 hours in Kuala Lumpur