Saturday, June 27, 2015


Since the area in and around Meenmutty Resorts is rife with tea plantations, I was keen to visit a local tea factory. The resort people organised a jeep for us to take us to Harrisons Malayalam Limited that was about 20 km away.

Drying the leaves; there are fans underneath
The people at the tea factory were very friendly and showed us the whole process of “orthodox” way of tea production as against CTC. “Orthodox” tea is both black and green tea of different grades that are used for making tea that is had without milk.

They keep strict track of temperature
Harrisons Gold is their product that is mainly manufactured to be exported to UK, Singapore and a few other countries. The factory produces 35 tonnes of tea on an average day. Yes, my jaw dropped too.

Shredding machine
Tea leaves are plucked from the plantation and brought to the factory by lorry. They are spread over a huge rack with fans underneath along with a temperature gauge. This first process is to ensure that the leaves retain moisture of 58%. The process takes place over 12 hours. The drying process should neither be too fast nor too slow. This process happens on the upper floor.

Sorting into different grades
From here, the tea leaves fall through a chute onto a machine where it is shredded and separated into different grades.

Tea leaves browned @ 120 degrees F
Then the separated tea leaves are passed through a barrel like structure where they lose more moisture.

The machine trips off the second the heat goes up by even half a degree
After this, the shredded tea is spread on the floor in batches and dried under fan in a room for a few hours.

The kiln runs 24/7 - water distilled and converted to steam using wood-fire and...
Next, the tea is heated once again in something like a kiln. The maximum temperature setting is 120 degree F. The temperature is automated to avoid burning. The tea is dried by the heat of steam from distilled water that runs through pipes.

...and this mixture of wastepaper pulp & groundnut oil cake
The water is distilled on the premises by heat created from burning wood and another product which is a mix of wastepaper (this is usually from cash recycled by the Reserve Bank of India is what we were told) and the residue that occurs after removing oil from groundnuts. This part of the tea-making process is the most expensive.

The tea is ready for cooling and packing
After checking out the whole process, we got to sit with the supervisor and taste their Orange Pekoe Black Tea that was too delicious for words. We got to purchase green tea, black tea and some CTC tea (regular tea that we have at home with milk; CTC Tea is manufactured at other outlets of their factory, not in Wayanad) at less than half the market price from their recently opened sales outlet on their premises.

Orange Pekoe "orthodox" tea
I was happy to find out that most of the employees have been working for Harrisons Malayalam Limited since more than fifteen years. The attrition level is almost nil. They have 40 employees working per shift with three shifts running full swing.

Employee Udaya Kumar (with Venkat) explained the whole process
All the employees have family accommodation, one day’s leave per week and nearby schools for their children. I thought that they got a good deal, working for the company.

Viggy admits that he didn't regret the trip to the tea factory ;)
An interesting trivia the supervisor mentioned was that the tea plantation / factory is surrounded by forests. Wild elephants walk down to the factory compound every night once the main gates are shut. That must be some sight for sure!

Friday, June 26, 2015


The nature trail begins
Early morning, we woke up to the background music of flowing water and bird call. There’s a waterfall that’s within the property and one can hear the water flowing 24/7. It’s the most beautiful and refreshing sound that I have ever heard. Though there were a lot of insects – mostly moths – around; luckily for us, there were no mosquitoes.

Viggy and Vinny harassing the guide about a way to jump into the waterfall
After breakfast, we decided to go on the nature trail within the property along with a guide. We walked on a slope with grass on either side, mountain on our right with a valley on the left. There was a gentle waterfall running along in the valley as we walked to the Bamboo Island.

Isn't that lovely!
Trekking skills were required to walk down the steeper slope to reach the island and water. I refused to go while Venkat went with the others up to a point. I walked further to a clearing, clicking photographs. Venkat came back after a point and joined me on a wooden platform that had been built at a height giving a perfect view of gushing water.

Have they convinced him yet?
In the meanwhile, Vinny and Viggy had the time of their lives swimming in the water and trekking in Bamboo Island. They came out after almost an hour and joined us on the wooden platform.

That stone bench sure looks comfy
Vinny had two leeches sticking to her right foot. We had been warned about this and the guide carried salt to drive them away. Leeches hold on strongly to one’s skin and cannot be pulled off. When salt is sprayed on them, they let go and fall off by themselves. Fortunately, they don’t cause any harm.

On their way to Bamboo Island
The guide told us of a health treatment with leeches that is quite popular in Kerala. Leeches tend to suck bad blood from a person I believe. They place a leech against the sick person. It takes about 20 minutes for the leech to suck blood and become bloated. When too heavy, it falls off by itself. It brings about a tremendous change in the person’s energy levels. It sounded great. But I definitely didn’t want to try that kind of a treatment.

I veered away and clicked more pics
While the kids were keen to walk more, Venkat and I decided to get back to the main building. We took a different direction – with sign boards at strategic points and many women walking around cleaning the property, there wasn’t any chance of getting lost – to walk back to our room.

Got on the wooden platform for a better view
But the slope that Venkat walked up was rather slippery. I went halfway and didn’t have the guts to carry on further. I came down and walked back the way we had used before, while Venkat went by the new way. I reached the reception and took a break before going back to the room.

The view couldn't get better
It was truly a walk in nature with blue skies, grey clouds, tea plantation terraces, a variety of trees and gushing water. Simply awesome!

Vinny & Viggy finally got into the waterfalls

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Our rooms on the first floor at the topmost point @ Meenmutty Resorts
We left home at 9.45 am on June 13, 2015 to catch our Indigo flight to Coimbatore at 12 noon. The flight left half an hour late for whatever reason and we finally landed at 2.15 pm. The car that Meenmutty Resorts had arranged for us was already waiting for us.

Inside the room
We left for Wayanad that is 6-7 hours travel by road. While the distance is about 240 km, most of the travel is done on mountain roads via Ooty. That’s why it took so long to reach the place, especially as we stopped on the way a couple of times.

Another section of the room @ Meenmutty Resorts
 The scenery on the way was some of the best that I have seen; with mountains and valleys lush and green due to rains. Though the weather was wet, it only drizzled most of the time. The route goes via Ooty and further towards Kerala.

The view from our balcony
We finally reached Meenmutty Resorts at 10.30 pm through thick mist. We could see barely five feet in front of our car as the driver skilfully traversed the hilly terrain to reach the hotel. We had to drive more than a km after reaching the gates.

View from the reception @ Meenmutty Resorts
The resort is set in a large property of 12 acres, predominantly of tea plantation terraces. There was a bit of coffee plantation, a few jackfruit trees, many flowering plants and a variety of other trees.

Tea plantation that's part of the property
We finally arrived and were taken to our rooms that were set at the topmost point of the property. One room was regular in size and the other was three times as big. Venkat and I were lucky enough to take the larger one. There was a huge balcony – a common space – in front of our rooms. Unable to see much due to the mist, we had a bite of dinner before crashing for the night.

Venkat, Vinny & Viggy on their way down to Bamboo Island
Vinny making coffee in the garden
It was only the next day we got to see Meenmutty Heights. It was truly a jaw-drop moment. Stepping out of our rooms, we could see that we were high up on a mountain with a valley at least a 1000 ft below. Across were more mountains, all surrounded by clouds. In between, we got to see the clearest of blue skies in small slits. Sigh... loved it. The background music of water running down a rocky slope along with bird and insect twitter was the most beautiful sound I have heard. This was on 24/7.

On the way down to the dining room @ Meenmutty Resorts
We had to walk down a gentle slope for 15 minutes to the restaurant. That’s where they served the buffet breakfast every day. It was possible to order all other meals to our rooms. The service was excellent. Young boys use a motorbike to deliver our orders – towels, blankets, coffee, water and more – within 10 minutes of placing the order. Of course, food took a little longer.

It was such fun walking through the clouds
Saajan is your guy there. A hotel management graduate, he’s been in the industry for five years. It was difficult to believe that he had joined Meenmutty Resorts just a couple of months back. He had all information at his fingertips and was completely organised. For almost a day and a half, we were the only guests. Saajan went through the menu with us, checking what we were interested in eating, making suggestions and giving us the best.

Shaji the cook making masala omelette
We stuck predominantly to Kerala fare. They made the softest of Idlis that I have ever had. The yummy Sambar – though also made at our Tamil abode – was quite different with a variety of veggies thrown in. There was Idiyaappam and Veg Stew with a dash of coconut oil that gave it a flavour that I have never tasted – too delicious. They served us a Kerala Mini Meal for one afternoon and Kerala Thali on another day. Both were awesome with non-veg side dishes thrown in for Venkat and Viggy. They served fish, chicken and mutton for different meals.

That's Saajan standing between Venkat & Viggy during breakfast
Dinners mostly consisted of North Indian or Chinese. The Paneer Makhani; Mixed Vegetable; Dal and Phulkas were to die for. Gobi Manchurian and Veg Fried Rice were also yum. Shaji is the cook at Meenmutty Heights. He used to step out of his kitchen during breakfast to make the most delightful Masala Omelette on a huge iron skillet.

Vinny and Viggy ready to swim in the waterfalls
The resort offers an Ayurvedic massage facility. Set in those sylvan surroundings, I expected it to be the best experience there. Alas, it was pretty mediocre.

That's how it was most of the time :D
The brilliant blue swimming pool set deep down a valley appeared like a jewel from the top. Venkat, Vinny and Viggy had a blast there despite the cold, wet weather.

Venkat walking through the clouds @ Meenmutty Resorts
The best experience was walking through clouds. We could see clouds floating down from the skies and passing us by. Walking through them was just amazing.

I found this cute antique cupboard @ the reception
All in all, it was a wonderful trip amidst nature; comfortable rooms; excellent service and delicious food that I didn’t have to cook. I couldn’t ask for more.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Inside the Indigo flight - Vinny, Viggy & Venkat
It’s been years since the four of us in the family got to go on a long trip. As all of us are working, it took us a lot of planning to ensure that we could get away for a full week together. Venkat had been keen to go to Ooty for a while and that’s where we decided to go.

Yours truly
Vinitha booked us on Indigo to and from Coimbatore International Airport, well in advance. She even pre-booked our meals. The plan was to leave Mumbai on June 13, 2015 and return on June 20, 2015.

Landed @ Coimbatore International Airport. Managed to click this pic before one of the attendants shooed us off
Once the tickets were booked, we checked out the hotels and sightseeing options in Ooty. That’s when we realised that there wasn’t much to do in the place unless one is ready to rush from one point to another. It was definitely not our cup of tea. 6D/7N in Ooty would have been too much.

I was lucky with this random click when we stopped on the way to Wayanad
Luckily for us, a few of Vinny’s friends visited our home. When they heard that we were planning a trip down south, Nitin suggested that we should go to Meenmutty Resorts / Meenmutty Heights (both are names of the same place), a resort owned by his uncle.

Scenic Route from Coimbatore to Wayanad via Ooty
We checked their website, the distance needed to be travelled, etc and decided to go ahead. Meenmutty Heights is in Wayanad, Kerala. Though that’s a different state altogether, the property is actually very close to Tamil Nadu-Kerala border. We needed to travel only half an hour into Kerala before we reached Meenmutty Heights.

Tea Plantations - a close-up
Coimbatore Airport to Ooty is 3 hours by road. Meenmutty Heights is another 3-4 hours further. It made sense to visit Wayanad first as longer hours of travel before a return flight from Coimbatore to Mumbai at 2.15 pm made no sense. That’s how we ended up planning to go to Wayanad first.

Luckily, there wasn't much rain despite the grey skies. Doesn't that look awesome?
We booked two rooms at Meenmutty Heights paying a token amount in advance. This was for Bed & Breakfast from June 13-16, 2015. The plan was to leave Wayanad and travel to Ooty and stay there till June 20.

This is the view from behind Hotel Lakeview, Ooty
After checking out TripAdvisor and the respective websites, we zeroed in on three hotels in Ooty. Finally, it was Hotel Lakeview that we liked. We called the hotel and had two cottages booked, paying an advance there too.

The garden @ Hotel Lakeview, Ooty. The building houses the reception and restaurant
Yeah, Hotel Lakeview has only cottages – beautiful and comfortable. Since we booked three months ahead, we got two of the best cottages that were quite close to the reception and restaurant in the 8-acre property.

The tree with white flowers outside our cottages @ Hotel Lakeview, Ooty
It was a week of fun, frolic, rest and rejuvenation with family. I must say that it was one of the loveliest trips that I have ever had.