THE TEA PLANTATIONS
The hilly country is like the twin city of Kandy. Immensely beautiful and picturesque the high altitude allows for the growth of the world renowned ceylon tea. This beautiful & varied terrain is great for hiking and trekking as well.
Make your way to the factory where you will observe the process that transforms the raw green leaf in to the familiar brown particles of made tea. After experiencing tea production participate in a tea tasting session to sample some of the various grades of tea produced at the estate’s factory.
Tea made its entry into Sri Lankan life and the economy towards the end of the 19th century, courtesy of the British and so began an unchained melody, so to say, of a torrid affair between tea and Sri Lanka… and thence on to the entire world via exports. Needless to say multiple thousands of acres of hitherto virgin forest cover were condemned to a sudden death as every possible mountain reach was accessed by the British planters who saw in Sri Lanka’s hills the ultimate haven for tea plantations. Three provinces went under Tea’s rich emerald and silver tipped canopies.. the Green Gold had come to stay and stay it did. It might have been a terrific sight as those pioneer British planters chopped their way through thick mountain forest cover to open up the virgin land to the cup that cheers.
First the bridle paths were traced to points not visited by people earlier. Then came the vast network of approach pathways, often leading from one plantation to the abutting ones. History was re-written by perhaps many thousands of indented Indian labour that was shipped to what then was Ceylon and one never knows what the cost in economic terms and human life was to plant the seeds of socio-economic transformation in Sri Lanka.
Verdant mountainous jungle had suddenly been transformed into dew-dipped carpets of lush green CEYLON TEA as it was destined to be known the world over to this day. The British spared themselves no expense or human effort to then plant for themselves huge, sprawling plantation bungalows with line rooms further down each estate to house the plantation workers and families. Giant factories sprung up everywhere, almost on every hill. The industry made strident progress from the start, and fed scores of ships which took massive consignments of tea to all parts of the world. This necessitated the laying of railway tracks all the way up from Colombo.. a task so immense that it’s a wonder the British never baulked at its enormity. This time around labour was shipped down from Malaysia where experienced line layers were found aplenty, courtesy of the British railway drive in that country too. And justifiably so the British planter atop his horse on this and that estate perhaps looked down at the whole transformed scenario with a deep sense of satisfaction, watching the smoke from some train leaving for Colombo with a huge consignment of tea trailing up and away into the cloud canopy that will always hug those beautiful hills. Railway stations were of necessity constructed close to every large group of estates for the trains to collect their produce, including vegetables now, on their way down to Colombo. This opened up a great avenue of employment and youth ‘ down south’ were challenged to pursue a sound English education in newly opened educational institutions in a bid to secure lucrative employment on the plantations.
The wheels of history however turned as they were fated to turn and with the departure of the British, ownership progressively fell into the hands of the Sri Lankans themselves, paving the way for the entire industry to take its place of the country’s premier foreign exchange earner.
This is the basic canvass of history behind those incredibly beautiful tea plantations which the foreign visitor might tend to not take very seriously…but back of the sultry romanticism in which those plantations are clouded is a deeper history of the decay and death of a colonial era. But to the tea itself: the average visitor will be perhaps intrigued to know spend a few hours on a plantation seeing how the green “two buds and a leaf” end up under blowers, chopped fine or curled , or just reduced to dust, turn into the brownish-black brew that the world today cannot live without. It’s a common sight to see dozens of those old bungalows which were converted into virtual hide-away retreats for the benefit of the friends of the Planters from Colombo or elsewhere. Those places still stand intact and in good use to this day and are located in some of the most scenic spots which dot the hill country.
One will find it easy to do some study into all aspects of planting, picking, drying, curing and packing with any number of friendly people on every plantation to take time out to oblige. Tea tasting can be as demanding of the palate as wine tasting is in Europe and elsewhere with teas from various elevations subject to change in taste just as grapes from different areas are subject to changes in texture, taste and strength.
Tea Trails is not about seeing just another factory. When up in the hills, just try it and you will find the experience exhilaratingly unique as you get drawn into its “other worldliness” ambience.
The places below, gives you the best chances of exploring the tea country in style.