Blog, Malaysia

Our Cup of Tea

A cuppa, a brew, a pot, char. Mornings are rarely started without it. It’s a running joke on Florence that a real disaster at sea for us would be running out of tea. As fate would have it Florence herself came with not one, but two tea pots; the perfect boat. Even the scorching tropical sun will not dissuade us from partaking in a cup or two. Black, green, herbal or fruity we take them all. Such is the rock and roll lifestyle aboard our boat.

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A morning brew in Australia’s Hinchinbrook Channel

Inching our way up the Malacca strait we were getting ever closer to the Cameron Highlands; an area that produces 60% of Malaysia’s tea. The cooler temperatures of the highlands coupled with the opportunity to learn more about our daily brew was too temping to miss. From Pangkor marina we teamed up with M&M on Osprey and rented a car for an overnight trip into the hills. Mark and Marjo are good friends we have been leapfrogging with for the last 2 years since meeting in Tonga. Good friends despite their *cough* coffee drinking habits.

Three hours inland from Pangkor, the Cameron Highlands became well known during the colonial era when British planters realised the potential of their fertile mountain slopes for growing tea, a prized commodity.

Peering through the windscreen wipers, into the drizzle, at the long line of tail-lights winding uphill, we inched our way past ancient landrovers and large signs advertising  high tea and pick your own strawberry farms. One could not help but notice it all felt terribly British.

Unfortunately with it being the wet season, the weather was… well wet. Plus with it being the holiday season the roads were jammed. Our hopes of making the tea plantations that day were put to a crawling halt by the traffic.

So what else is there to see in the Highlands? Malaysia’s national hobby is shopping. As such the highland roads are lined with market stalls, shops and more garden centres than we could count. Not such an appealing prospect for 4 boat dwellers with limited space, hoping to give their legs a good stretch in the hills. Alas the wet weather had closed the main trail to the peak. As the rain battered the car roof, our hiking plans were becoming less and less attractive. So far no tea had be sampled and the only jam we had tasted were of the traffic variety. Consoling ourselves with a delicious Tom Yam Mee meal for about £1 each, we resolved to an early start with the hope of beating the crowds to the tea plantations the following morning.

Blurry eyed and in much need of a cuppa, we dragged ourselves from our big comfy land bed and set out for the famous BOH Tea Plantations. As we wound our way up a narrow road, the clouds lifted to reveal dramatic views over the lush, green, thickly blanketed valleys. Any disappointment we were feeling soon left us as we watched groups of plantation workers chat and banter as they sheared the crops, protected from the weather by their straw cone hats.

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It was time to sample the goods. Tea in Malaysia is normally served iced with lots of sugar and/or sickly sweet condensed milk. Purchasing a plain highlands cup in the conveniently placed tea room we sat to a breakfast of scones and cakes.

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A free tour of the tea factory (sorry no cameras allowed), revealed some new to us facts about our beloved cuppa;

  • Most of the tea we drink is from one plant the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub native to East Asia
  • The tea plants are left for 5 years before any leaves are harvested. They are then harvested every 3 weeks. A lot of the harvesting is still done by hand.
  • The age/type of leaf/shoot selected and the drying process determine the type/quality of the tea. White, black and green tea all come from the same plant.

The journey back to the boats was broken with a stop at the Kek Lok Tong temple, a Buddhist temple set in a huge dramatic cave that opens up into a Chinese garden walled by vertical jungle clad cliffs.

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Back in Pangkor….

Pangkor island itself is a major tourist destination for Malaysians who come for the beaches and boat trips. Despite the number of snorkeling trips advertised it would take a serious problem and/or a big bribe for either of us to willingly swim here. Each tide would take a deluge of rubbish past us one way, to see it returning again on the turn of the tide. Small remote beaches temped us ashore, only for us to retreat moments later due to the stench of raw sewage, rotting fish and piles of washed up rubbish. The waters of the Malacca Straits have been the most polluted of any of our trip so far.

On a more positive note Horn-bills are fairly common in this part of Malaysia and we enjoyed watching these unusual looking birds. Perhaps a distant birds eye view of the NW anchorage in Pangkor is the best way to experience it.

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9 thoughts on “Our Cup of Tea”

  1. John and I stayed in Pangkor Laut resort about 20 years ago with our daughter and son in law. They then lived and worked in Singapore, and before that in Kuala Lumpur, from where they also stayed in the Cameron Highlands, and visited a tea plantation!
    The Pangkor Laut beach was idyllic then, and the water was very clean. Sad to hear of the pollution now.

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  2. So funny to (re)read the exact same track you guys did that I did about seven years ago. Exact same tea plantation, exact same tour, exact same caves, seen the same birds…..but that doesn’t make this blog less interesting, you guys write it down way way better then me 🙂 lol
    As always, loved reading it
    On to the next one now, was a bit behind as we went to the Clipper around the world race in Airlie Beach last weekend!!!

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  3. Hi Matt and Amy,
    I have recently found your sites and have become a Patreon, but I would like to help further as I know you are looking at a new mainsail. How on earth do I contact you more directly.
    By way of explanation I am 75 years young, sailed for over sixty of ’em and now plan to live on my Bowman 47 and cruise Australia.
    I really love reading and looking at the videos you have created. They give me great happiness. You are doing something I should have done 50 years ago, but I followed the money which will always dissappoint.
    Please make contact with me so I can help you with your wonderful lifestyle. Also please remember I am not a luddite, I am inept in this area. Please help!!
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    All the very best,
    Frank Rogers

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Frank,
      Thank you for your very kind message and support.
      The Bowman 47 is a very beautiful boat, we hope you are enjoying sailing her in Australia.
      Please don’t worry about the mainsail; we have sent you a longer message through Patreon with our personal email to explain in more detail.
      Thanks for getting in touch.
      Best wishes,
      Amy and Matt

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