HIDDEN TEA HILLS

IF

There are 11 major tea-producing provinces in Indonesia that contribute to the country’s seventh place in the world’s biggest tea exporters. At the top spot of these provinces is West Java with nearly ten thousand hectares of lands in total for tea plantations.

The province’s green scenery dominated by plantation in relatively high altitude is a correct assumption. But some are off-limits to the public, as they belonged to a privately-invested lands.

But given its large size, it is quite impossible to hide it from travellers sight. This one, for instance, is situated on the outskirts of the province’s capital city, Bandung. It hides behind Setu Patenggang, a natural spot popular for its sulfuric lake on a white crater at the top of an inactive volcanic mountain, Mount Patuha.

By continuing the uphill tracks beyond the crowded meeting point at the entrance of the sightseeing place, the stony path leads to the remainings of what used to be a lush West Java forest, before it shrinks to its current condition to make way for expanding population and the living space. Beyond these trees is an abrupt change of scenery.

An unhindered vista of flat and green tea leafs blanketing the surrounding hills was worth half an hour lonely walks from what was initially supposed to be a typical tourist visit to the white crater.

With a little sense of intuition, an adventure-seeking traveler is more likely to get what he/she wishes for, more than just seeing a crowded places on guidebooks.

But this gem could have been more available to public when the demand is as popular a commodity as it is in Britain, for example. With a population four times less than Indonesia, the per capita tea consumption is ten times more.

Although Indonesia is traditio-nally among the top ten tea producers globally, its national consumption ranked 46. Given the topographical suitability to plant tea leaves and the enormous size of land, West Java has a far way to get anywhere near its full potential, but the downside it brings is apparent.

Forest diminishes in favor of plantation. And as fast as the rate of deforestation, people must be aware of the price to be the first in agricultural commodity.

Eeriness crept as one took a walk down the narrow path that only fitted one body, and added by the mountain breeze that brought cold air at noon. The thick fog at the top of the mountains and the gloomy weather made it seemingly hard to tell the time.

Heart raced when the sound of approaching vehicle was heard from the distance, for fear of being caught by the patroling staff. This piece of land, after all, serves for business purpose, hence those who are not employees are barred from entering.

IF

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