Located less than 90 kilometers south of Jakarta, the Gunung Mas tea plantation was cultivated in the Dutch colonial era, although is now a government-owned estate. The site is sprawled out over more than 6,000 acres, where row after row of tea grows in cool climates of between 18 and 25°C (due to the elevated altitude). The lush hillsides and processing plants of the Gedeh tea plantation, 15km northwest of town via a pot-holed road, are well worth a visit. It was established by the Dutch in 1916, and most of the original machinery is still in use.
The tea factory at Gunung Mas offers a glimpse into the drying, processing and packaging of the tea grown at the plantation. These processes are all achieved with antique-looking machinery that seems to do the job well enough. The end product is exported all over the world to such big-name tea brands as Twinings and Pickwick.
Visitors can also take a tour of the plantation itself – to watch the tea-pickers at work and perhaps buy some tea-leaves to take home. Those who enjoy walking can take advantage of the cool climate and the lush highland views by joining one of the organized guided hikes that often take place around the site.
The top of the pass reaches an altitude of 1500 meter, where it is cool and misty, except for the mornings when the view can be more far-reaching. The road passes some lovely scenery of tea fields and dramatic landscapes, forests and mountains.
The agro-tourism destination of the Gunung Mas tea plantation is both a fascinating place to find out about the industrial processes involved in making tea and a place to relax and enjoy the benefits of cooler mountain air and countryside scenery. Even though this is where huge quantities of tea are processed and packaged — massive stacks of 55 kilogram sacks seem to be everywhere — there is generally a quiet and relaxing atmosphere here. Throughout and among the hills and their covering of greenery are footpaths, some more steeply inclined and challenging than others but all quite readily and easily accessible. It is via these footpaths that visitors may participate in “tea walks” which are essentially communal and sociable walks among the tea bushes.
It is on such walks that visitors may encounter tea pickers. These ladies in their wide-brimmed hats carry heavy baskets on their backs into which they skillfully deposit the leaves that they have carefully and expertly chosen to pick. Their picking is the first step in the long process from tea leaf to dried powder or leaf with which we brew our tea. Further up the hillside is a factory which visitors may enter to see the heavy industry and machinery of tea processing, but its technical details may be a bit beyond the layman.
There are apparently more than 1,000 people working on this plantation alone but it covers about 2.5 thousand hectares so it is far from crowded. Many of these employees are in fact working in the tourism industry rather than the tea industry — although tea is its central component.
At the top of the pass there are some restaurants and hotels, here you can buy a meal while you enjoy the green carpet of tea plantations and occasionally a hang glider or two.
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