Monthly Archives: December 2012

Butterfly in the Sky

After leaving the buzzing bees behind (like that alliteration?), our tour took us to a delightful butterfly farm. I could’ve spent hours and hours among the butterflies if given half a chance.

The butterflies were kept inside a large room and were free to flit and flutter around to their hearts’ content. Mesh fencing lined the walls and ceiling to keep the butterflies from escaping.

At other butterfly habitats I’ve visited, a two-door system is usually installed to prevent accidental escapes when people enter the sanctuary. However, this is Malaysia. Perhaps they have tons of butterflies around or just didn’t worry about escapees, because the double-door system wasn’t in place.

Like the honey farm, the butterfly farm didn’t offer any information about the creatures (which is a shame) and let us roam around as we wished. I tried to catch some butterflies on my finger but they avoided me, and I couldn’t find any nectar to lure them closer. *sigh* Oh well. It was still an amazing sight to see thousands of butterflies.

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Malaysian Honey Farm

As the saying goes, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” and it probably applies to tourist dollars as well. Our next stop on tour was a honey farm. Of course, it sold various honey- and bee-related products at the shop located near the exit. However, I guess that’s to be expected.

The bee farm wasn’t massive as I had originally thought. It looked more like an overgrown garden with wooden boxes set among the flowers. No one was there to tell us about bees or honey, so I don’t even know how the process works. I don’t know how many of those guys were buzzing about us or what species they were. I don’t know how long it takes to raise them or harvest their product. All in all, this part of the tour wasn’t very interesting.

Despite that, we had a nice, quick stroll through a botanical garden space and tried to avoid getting stung. I don’t think the bees were too interested in us though as there didn’t seem like many were out and about. The weather was warm so would have assumed they’d use this chance to gather pollen, but who knows what they were thinking?

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Sungai Palas Tea Plantation

After many close calls on the narrow, winding road and liberal horn honking by our driver, we finally arrived at the Sungai Palas Tea Plantation (safely I might add).

First, we explored the processing plant where a tour guide attempted to explain all the intricacies of tea making to us. Unfortunately, the sound of the machines overpowered her educational attempts and left me as clueless as ever. Good thing there were signs hanging near each step so I could get a vague gist of the process.

Apparently, after harvesting the tea, the leaves go through a rolling machine that crushes the leaves and breaks up their cells. This helps to release the juices within the leaves for fermentation.

The broken green leaves are left in a flat tray and exposed to air for up to two hours. This part of the process is important and monitored closely because it is when the leaves’ characteristic flavors are developed.

Next the leaves pass through the dryer, which burns rubber wood branches and creates temperatures up to 100 degrees Celsius. The 20-minute drying process halts the fermentation, and the leaves come out crispy with less than three percent moisture in them. At this point, they look a lot like the tea leaves we’re used to seeing.

The dried leaves pass through sieves of various sizes. This essentially removes the last bits of large fibers and separates the tea into grades. The finer the blend, the better quality of tea it makes.

And of course, after every tour you must exit through the gift shop and café. Here you could buy all kinds of tea-related products – skin care, perfumes and food. You could also buy snacks and desserts and sit by a floor-to-ceiling window with gorgeous views of the surrounding plantation. This alone is probably worth the visit, especially since I don’t even drink tea or coffee.

While I waited for the others to eat their snacks, I wandered around the small museum space that explained the plantation’s history. They were displaying some really interesting tools and machines used to harvest tea in the old days. I don’t think I’d be one to work in the fields (although, I suppose it’s in my genes since my grandma worked in the sugarcane plantations on Kauai), but I do have to respect all the hard-working people who help bring such an everyday product into our lives.

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