A brief history of tea industry in Munnar

Lockhart Tea Museum depicts life in British era and evolution of orthodox tea

January 21, 2019 11:02 pm | Updated 11:02 pm IST - IDUKKI

While sipping morning tea, one may not be aware that tea has a history of hundreds of years. The Lockhart Tea Museum at Devikulam, near Munnar, is a window on the evolution of the industry and exhibits all yesteryear equipment used for making tea dust.

Life in the early years of tea plantation in Munnar and Peerumade is vividly described through photographs, machines, tools, and other instruments.

The museum not only provides the history of mechanisation since the introduction of CTC tea but also the life in the British era and the evolution of orthodox tea (whole leaf teas manufactured using the traditional process).


The museum is attached to the orthodox tea factory set up over a century ago by the Britishers on the Lockhart tea gardens.

It is a walk into the history of life in the British era, reads a comment by a European traveller in the visitors’ book at the museum.

The museum and the orthodox tea factory are open to visitors with a view to providing them with the knowledge on the evolution of the industry and the early life in the plantation era, said Jobsy Thomas, general manager of Lockhart Tea Estate.

The museum was opened five years ago, he says adding that hospital instruments in the British era, Facit calculator, bullock cart, machines used for field operations, and England-made platform balance for weighing tea boxes are exhibited at the museum.

Orthodox tea

Prabhakar G., a guide at the museum, says visitors are first led to the orthodox tea factory to see tea-making before entering the museum.

The photographs of those who contributed to the plantation history are exhibited with footnotes.

First estate

Lockhart is the first estate in Munnar believed to have been planted in 1879 by Scottish planter Baron Von Rosenberg.

It was first planted with cinchona, a medicinal tree, as malaria had struck Munnar taking a toll on workers and planters.

May Isabella, sister of Rosenberg, was the first victim among the planters and she was buried at a hill which later became the British cemetery and the present CSI church was constructed in front of the cemetery by foreign planters.

“These stories unravel at the museum,” says Mr. Prabhakar.

The thematic museum has divided the history of Munnar into phases so that a visitor can easily experience the evolution of plantation from the early years to the present, he added.

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