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The Sri Lankan Tea Experience

With rich, luxuriant tea plantations stretching across the island for as far as the eye can see, from the mist-capped region of Hatton to the mountainous Dambatenne, Sri Lanka boasts a long and illustrious history with the refreshing Camillea Sinensis, a relationship that has thrived over the years to the extent of being marked as one of the largest producers of tea in the world. Today, a roaring tea industry plays a huge role in the island’s export and economic stability and its roots remain undeniably fascinating to revisit. ‘The Sri Lankan Tea Experience’ should indeed be one of your very first itinerary staples when stepping foot on island ground, to immerse in the tropics like it is meant to be immersed in, in all its natural glory.

Best Known For

The Tea Experience broken down:

  • The tea plantations: Home to 5 bungalows, all of which are inter-connected by winding routes along verdant tea plantations, the Ceylon Tea Trails in Hatton is an immersive experience both for the nature enthuse and tea connoisseur. Lush tea gardens additionally stretch for miles in the vicinity of Pedro, Dunkeld, Dambatenne, Handunugoda, Halpewatte and Galaboda tea factories. Stroll along miles of green and immerse in the full mountainous experience, where crisp mist swirls around and towering hills surround. Venture here at the crack of dawn and witness tea pluckers making their way to the fields to begin their day and learn about the means of tea cultivation from those who spend hours a day in tea gardens themselves. More tea plantations ramble on in the towns of Haputale, Nuwara Eliya and Geragama, stretching out as velvet green carpets as you pass by.
  • The tea factories: The heart of the working process. Step into a guided tour of a tea factory, where all the action takes place; learn the fascinating history behind some of the ancient machines used, that may date back to times past and get in on the process itself. Help to wither, roll and dry the tea, under the supervision of well-versed factory workers. Tea factories are generally found in the vicinity of or amongst the tea plantations and so you’d be stepping into the Point Pedro, Dambatenne, Handunugoda, Halpewatte and Galaboda tea factories.
  • Tea tasting: The flavour of tea depends on where the tea leaves are grown at. A single species of plant may produce varied forms of tea, due to the soil and weather around that may impact its growth process. Wrap up your tea tour with a guided tea tasting, private or otherwise. Embark on sip-and-spit sessions of a particular type of tea or of the specialties offered by the tea factory. At the Dilmah Private Tea Tasting, one learns the distinction between Maskeliya teas grown in the low-lying plains and those of Ran Watte, grown at an elevation of roughly 1,800 metres. The bungalows at Ceylon Tea Trails offer high tea with premium Dilmah tea such as the Craighead Estate Ceylon Silver Tips and the Rilhena Estate Gently Cinnamon Smoked Ceylon Pekoe. Tea plantations in Kahanda Kanda are famous for the Black Tea (also known as Ceylon Tea and is the most commonly used tea in households across the island) that’s grown within; embark on a tasting of its intense flavour or opt for the curious rare White Tea leaves at the Handunugoda Tea Estate, grown exclusively near sea level. Green Tea is an added source of flavour that’s sure to leave you captivated.

Interesting Facts

  • Black Tea is made by plucking two tea leaves and a bud in large quantities which are then withered, rolled, fermented, dried and sifted. The leaves are separated into different grades (according to leaf size) which go on up to the dust grade and each grade has a different colour and intensity. Larger leaves sell at more higher prices than the smaller.
  • GreenTea is left unfermented and maintains its antioxidant attributes.
  • The most unique tea in Sri Lanka, White Tea is more costly due to the extensive amount of work that goes into its preparation. The buds are exclusively picked at dawn, are not fermented and are hand-rolled individually. White Tea has less caffeine and more antioxidants than Black or Green Tea, making it the most healthiest of the lot.
  • The 1st tea plant arrived in Sri Lanka in 1824 from China as an ornamental plant for a botanical garden. Following this, more tea plants were brought in from Assam, Calcutta and Kenya. Due to how the tea plants thrived in tropical highland weather, tea production in Sri Lanka grew quickly and was thus expanded on until it became the booming tea industry the island is known for today.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • Euphorium Tea Salon offers bespoke tea blends of both local and foreign origin, such as the black tea-based Chloe mixed with dried flower petals as well as tea-based cocktails. Teaeli is yet another tea experience that calls to be basked in, with an innovative range of teas including Almond Truffle with white chocolate and Earl Grey crafted with cornflower, bergamot and blood orange awaits.
  • Black Tea varieties include English Breakfast, English Afternoon and Earl Grey; Green Tea comes in Real Leaf, Jasmine, Mint and Lemongrass and White Tea as Real White Tea, Ceylon Silver Tips, White Litchee Hand-rolled Tea and Jade Butterfly Hand-made Tea.
  • Tea auctions take place twice weekly within the ‘Ceylon Chamber of Commerce’ and date back to 1883. Here, around 700 factories engage in buying and trading of tea and is the site of one of the largest single origin tea auctions in the world.
  • The Ceylon Tea Museum, formerly known as the Hanthana Tea Factory serves as the place to visit to discover more on Sri Lanka’s rich tea history. Here, ancient artifacts of tea machinery and historical documents can still be seen today.
  • A visit to tea centres or companies may prove insightful as well; some of the notable are Mlesna and Dilmah.
  • When visiting the tea estates and factories in mountainous regions such as Hatton, Nuwara Eliya or Haputale, ensure to pack and wear several layers of clothing to be comfortable in the freezing cold climate.
  • The entire Tea Experience may go on for a few hours therefore packing snacks and water may not be necessary as it’s quite likely that you’d come across little shops along the way under the guidance of the tour expert.
  • Know that certain Tea Experiences may not necessarily end with a tea tasting - this depends on the factory. While some offer sip-and-sip sessions, where you swirl the tea in your mouth and spit it out into a spoon just to get a handle on the flavours, others may line up cups of different types of tea in front of you for you to have a thorough tea experience.

Tea plantations form an integral part of the surrounding topography, particularly in the more hilly regions of the isle. It is an aspect of local tradition and culture that dates back hundreds of years ago, associated with colonial times and boasting a long and illustrious history that now plays a key role in Sri Lankan heritage. Walk amongst the rich green fields and speak to the tea pluckers; learn more about life in the tea country, the arduous process of toiling at the estates day and night and the finer details of tea plucking, processing and preparation.

Note: Listed are a few Tea Tour operators who offer The Sri Lankan Tea Experience tour package.

Location info

Dunkeld Tea Factory - Norwood Estate

Pedro Tea Factory - Pedro Tea Estate

Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory - Halpe

Galaboda Tea Factory - Akuressa

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Guided Tour

Resplendent Ceylon
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