Cameron Highlands (or Tanah Tinggi Cameron in Malay) is located in the state of Pahang. Currently, there are two main roads that connect major towns in west coast of Peninsula Malaysia (such as Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Penang) to this popular highland resort town. The older access point is the Tapah - Ringlet route while the newer access has since been built from Simpang Pulai - Kg Raja.
The tea centre is accessible from a small road turn a few kilometres north of Brinchang town. To be exact, as you head north, Kea's Farm to your right should be a good landmark to indicate that a left-turn into Sg Palas Tea Plantation. Boh Tea Centre is located at the end of this small road.
When I first visited the tea centre back in 2002, it only featured an old tea house adjacent to the tea-making factory. Recently, Boh has opened a new tea centre at the same site with superbly designed interiors and exteriors, plus a tea café with a view to die for!
I really loved the new tea centre. It is very fashionable with modern-cum-Zen designs all around along with freshly painted walls and decors. Narrative posters are arranged along the pathway to tell a story or two about the history of Boh tea company and the natural environment of Cameron Highlands. There is also a video room where visitors can view short documentaries about tea processing and the history behind it.
The actual tea factory is still left intact in its old condition - white painted brick walls with red window. Inside, while most of the machines are of modern design, you can subtly feel the old world's era of tea making. It is as though you were being transported to the day where the smell freshly picked tea leaves were interspersed with the vitriolic smell of the fermented ones. While the whole process is rather intricate, it is can best be summarised in a five-step process:
To remove the moisture content of fresh tea leaves by blowing dry air onto them. This is done for two reasons. First, to enable the leaves to be twisted and rolled without shattering into flakes, and second, to allow certain natural chemical process to take place inside the leaves to improvise the actual taste of the tea as the end product.
To release and to expose the leave juices to oxygen. Back in the old days, leave rolling was done by hand. Now, the factory features a rolling machine called Rotovanes.
To facilitate natural reaction within the leaf cells as they are exposed to oxygen. To be a bit more technical, natural enzymatic action converts catechins into thearubigins and theaflavins within two hours of exposure. This is when the leaves turn coppery in colour as opposed to the initial light or dark green. Fermentation, while done in a short span of a few hours, is the most crucial process to improvise the taste of the end products.
To stop the fermentation process. Somewhat similar to the withering stage of the leaves, except that a blast of hot air is blown through the fermented leaves. At the end of this process, the leaves will appear crispy black as we normally see in our homes.
To remove stalks and fibres from the end product. Tea grading is also done to characterise the tea leaves by their sizes.
Enough about the world of tea making. The best feature of this new tea centre definitely goes to the tea café that juts out from the hill into the open air. Like I said, the view is absolutely magical. The café is partitioned into an indoor and outdoor area. Naturally, the strategic spots outside on the balcony are normally hard to obtain. The chance of floating on air with a superb view whilst sipping on exquisite cups of tea is probably everyone's cup of tea, pun intended. The view from inside the café is just as splendid as there are glass walls all around for the equally breathtaking view.
The café sells a big selection of teas, unlike the tea house at Bharat Tea Plantation. Exquisitely named tea blends like Gunung Chantik, Palas Supreme and Bukit Cheeding are featured on the menu, along with Boh alternative range such as Jasmine Green Tea, Chamomile, Peppermint, Lemon Myrtle, Passionfruit Orange, Strawberry Raspberry as well as the Seri Songket flavoured teas like Vanilla, Passion Fruit, Clove & Cardamom, Cinnamon, Earl Grey with Tangerine, Lemon with Mandarin, Lychee with Rose, Lime & Ginger and Mango. Indeed, the choices are yours.
Last but not least, there is a great gift shop inside the tea centre where wonderfully packaged tea products are sold and they do make great gifts for the ones back home.
A must-visit when in Cameron Highlands for its informative display of tea making processes and its history. The view from the tea café is absolutely breathtaking!