Coonoor is a quieter and hence a more relaxing holiday destination than Ooty, its more famous neighbor. The best way to experience Coonoor is to plan a stay in a Tea Plantation, indulge in tea tasting, take leisure walks in the plantations, visit a Toda tribal village, enjoy the teeming bird life, laze around and have lunch at the Gateway Coonoor. The highlight of this trip is the tea tasting of a variety of Nilgiri tea which is grown here. If you like the gourmet tea then you can buy some of it as well as many varieties are exported and not available in Indian cities. Lambs Rock and Lady Cannings seat offer enticing trekking routes as well. I have always found Coonoor a more enjoyable holiday than Ooty. But i did drop into the chocolate Museum in Ooty on my way back!
Coonoor is best enjoyed by staying in a Tea Plantation so forget about Coonoor hotels. Several Tea plantations in Coonoor have started taking in guests. I stayed in Tranquiltea and it was a fantastic experience. Contact no is 9443841572.
Coonoor is on the Nilgiri mountain railways conncecting Metupalayam and Ooty. Coonoor is also well connected by road from Bangalore, Mysore, Coimbatore and Ooty. The nearest airport is at Coimbatore, 77 Kms away.
I had driven down from Bangalore to Coonoor. The route via Mysore-Gundlupet-Ooty took around 8 hours. The drive after Bandipur is through the national forest and we had an encounter with a Nilgiri Langur.
It was independence day and at Gundlupet we saw a small parade of school children dressed up as freedom fighters!
Tea is said to have been discovered in China by Emperor Shen Nung around 3000 BC. Over the years, thousands of varieties of Tea have been discovered. Nilgiri Tea is an intensely aromatic, fragrant and flavoured tea. The elevation over 6000 feet, soil type and climate of Nilgiris, gives the Tea a unique balance of flavour and strength.
Nilgiri Tea can be classified into 3 types based on the sorting method.
1.Orange Pekoe is the highest grade Nilgiri tea and the most expensive. Only full leaves are used in making this tea. The sorting of Orange Pekoe is by hand.
2.Broken orange pekoe is the next grade Tea. Semi full leaves are used in this type of tea. Sorting is done by machines, making it a little cheaper than the Orange Pekoe.
3.CTC or Crush, Tear and Curl is the most common type of Nilgiri Tea, named after how it is sorted. It is the common man's tea!
Nilgiri Tea has multiple health benefits. It helps lose body fat. The caffeine levels provide the right amount of energy to exercise and speed up metabolism to burn fat. Nilgiri Tea is good for the heart as well. Black tea contains flavonoids which improves blood flow, lowers bood pressure and reduces blood sugar levels. Nilgiri Tea can also function as a gastrointestinal aid. It helps digestion, decreases gastric acids and helps fight diarrhea and constipation. Nilgiri Tea is a good armour against common cold. Rich with antioxidants, it helps fight bacteria and viruses.
Take spring water and boil it. Impurities in water can alter the perfect taste of Nilgiri tea. Take a pot and place 1 tea spoon of Nilgiri tea leaves per cup of water. Pour the hot water on to the leaves in the pot and let it steep for 6 minutes. Remove and strain your tea. Now it is ready to drink.
If you want to make Ice Tea, then add more tea. After steeping, place it in the refrigerator. The additional Tea will compensate for the dilution from ice.
If you are a connoisseur of masala chai, then here is are some tips on how to make a perfect one. Note, Assam tea is best suited for Masala Chai.
Ingredients required are two broken cinnamon sticks, two while cardamom pods, three black peppers, four cloves, two gingers, 1 cup of water, 6 tsp of black tea leaves or 4 tea bags, 2 cups of milk and 2 tsp of sugar or honey.
Crush the mix of cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon in a coffee grinder. Add ginger. Mix the spices. Add tea and spices to the cup of water. Boil in a pot for 5 minutes. Add milk and then sugar or honey. Let it simmer for 5 more minutes. Filter the tea and serve it hot.
Sims park is the most popular tourist destination in Coonoor. Developed in 1874, Sims Park is spread over 12 acres. It is a beautiful garden with exotic trees like rudraksh, queensland kary pine, turpentine, tree ferns and camellia. There are a thousand species of plants across nearly 85 families. A rose garden is another highlight of Sims Park. Several ornamental plants can be seen in the glass house. However, Sims park gets vey crowded on weekends and holidays so it is better visited during week days or early in the morning. May is the best time to visit Sims Park as the annual fruits and vegetable show is held in this venue. Entry timings are 8am - 630 pm. There is a nominal entrance fee of Rs 5 per person.
The Tea plantation walk is a refreshing exercise. While the workers are busy picking tea leaves, our host explained the entire process right from the Tea nursery to the production stage in the factory.
We spotted some bisons early in the morning, during the plantation walk. Our host told us it is not rare to see bisons blocking your way right inside the planation.
Another interesting observation made during the plantation walk was a set of marks on trees. The marks were left overnight by nocturnal visitors. Our host confirmed the marks belonged to a male leopard!
A walk to a traditional Todal tribal village is a great way to experience the tribal history of Coonoor and Ooty. Todas are the native tribes of the Nilgiris. They are pastoral people and live in small hamlets called munds. They are vegetarians and eat Buffalo milk products like cheese, yogurt and buttermilk. Buffalo enjoys a prime position in their religion. They believe God created the Bufflao before Man. Dairymen are the priests as well. Their traditional dress is a single piece which is worn like the plaid of a Scottish highlander over the dhoti and skirt.
The Toda live in huts called Dogles.
Where did the Todas came from remains a mystery. Genetically they are very different from other tribes of Nilgiris. Infact the closest resemblance is to Greek Cypriots! The earliest written record of the Todas available is a diary belonging to a Portuguese traveler Finico who had visited the Nilgiris in 1602.
An urforgettable journey to undertake would be the steam train ride from Coonoor to Metupalayam. The train from the last century meanders through tunnels, mountains and a breathtaking natural landscape. Designed by Swiss Loco works, the Steam Engines hauls a fairy tale coach, blue and cream in colour and made of wood with large windows. Bookings can be made at IRCTC website.
While taking a walk in the forest adjoining the plantations, we found this porcupine quill. It was a precious memorabilia from this fun filled trip to Coonoor.
On our drive back from Coonoor to Bangalore, we dropped into M&N Chocolate museum in Ooty. Infact the chocolate museum is my favorite place in Ooty. The Museum has information on the history of chocolate making dating back to the Mayans. There are a few specimens of the old machinery which was used to make choclate over the years. This best part of this museum is the home made chocolate counter from where you can carry back some exotic varieties of Ooty chocolates.
For more of my travelogues to hill stations, visit Great Hill Station Ideas.