Tea Harvesting in Munnar

The Munnar tea estates produce a large per centage of India’s total amount of tea annually. The world-renowned tea estates of Munnar used to be dense forest. Then, a British man by the name of John Daniel Munro purchased a portion of land measuring 227 square miles (588 sq. km) from the royal family in 1879. The Kannan Devan Hills possessed the perfect conditions to start growing coffee, cinchona, cardamom and other spices. Eventually, John focused on tea cultivation. European planter, A. H. Sharp, began tea cultivation in 1880, planting the first tea plant in Munnar, starting with the 50 acres at Parvathy. Many of the tea estates belonged to different companies and people including the Seven Mallay Estate, Finley Muir, Tata group and Kanna Devan Hills Produce Company. In 2005, the Kanna Devan Hill Plantations Company Pvt Ltd formed, controlling all 50 estates established today, marking the starting point of the largest tea corporation in South India.


Several key components are necessary for optimal tea growth. The Munnar cultivation areas are sufficiently isolated, establishing an environment with no trace amounts of contaminants or pollutants. An abundance of manual workers are required for weed control, trenching, harvesting and many other necessary tasks to produce a high-quality product. Warm weather allows growth and collection to occur year-round. The higher altitudes create a better-quality tea, as the plant grows at a slower rate, which increases the plants’ overall flavor and quality.


The process of picking leaves by hand requires a high amount of skill. Only the young and ripe flush is removed during harvesting. The flush contains both the leaf and a section of the stem and bud. Men and women work together in tea fields across the world. However, only women work in the tea estates of Munnar. Leaves harvested by women are consistently better quality than those collected by men.