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A museum for tea

By R. Ramabhadran Pillai

MUNNAR, MARCH 19. For lovers of tea, this is just one of its kind in the country — a tea museum that provides a glimpse of the history of tea plantation in Kerala's High Ranges. The museum set up by Tata Tea, a major player in the industry, is located at its Nullatanni estate in Munnar, the hill station.

Curios, photographs and machinery dating back to a century and more tell a story of progress that has its roots in the adventure and courage of a group of people. The museum takes visitors to a forgotten past and provides insights into the phenomenal growth of Munnar, which has become a fascinating hill station to thousands of tourists. It also provides information on the operations involved in making packaged tea.

At the entrance to the museum is a sundial, fixed on a block of granite. Made in 1913 by the Art Industrial School at Nazareth, Tamil Nadu, it enables one to calculate the time from a gauge on which the sun's rays fall. A burial urn from the second century B.C. that was exhumed near Periakanal estate in the 1970s is on show.

Yet another interesting showpiece is the wheel of the rail engine of the `Kundale Valley Light Railway'. The train used to run between Munnar and the Top Station during the early part of the last century.

The memorabilia at the museum includes a tea roller from 1905, the rotorvane, which is an old-type tea processing machine, the `Pelton wheel' used in the power generation plant that existed in the Kanniamallay estate in the 1920s, manual calculators, typewriters, telephones and furniture used during the last century. There is also a tea tasting demonstration room and a mini-tea manufacturing unit to demonstrate the stages of tea processing. The museum has plans to allow tourists to pluck tea leaves themselves and have them processed in their presence.

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