Tea Time

Sri Lanka

It’s in the hills we experience the significance that tea plays for Sri Lanka.

Tea is a critical commodity for Sri Lanka and their economy. It’s at a tea museum, in an old tea factory I realize I’m ignorant to where our tea comes from. I’ve visited coffee and chocolate plantations. I know how cigars are made and I’ve visited countless breweries and distilleries. I do not understand how the cup of tea comes to be.

After a failed try at growing coffee, James Taylor, a Scottish man turned to growing tea plants in the Sri Lankan hills. He leaned on Indian knowledge about growing and processing tea leaves. The success of his endeavour is clear in tea plants we pass as we drive through the hills.

Everywhere we go we pass tea plants. Squat, green plants with big leaves. The tea leaves are picked by hand, mostly by women holding sacks of tea leaves by their heads. These women are hard workers. The job looks tough.

All tea we drink comes from the same plant. The difference between Orange Pekoe, Earl Gray, Green or other varieties is the processing and size of the final product.

A trip into the Sri Lankan hills requires at least one visit to a working tea factory. Inside we see the tea leaves being dried, ground, cured and sorted. On one particular day we’re touring around, I’m sure I’ve had eight cups of tea and I’m vibrating.

It’s from the height of a tea plantation we see a religious festival passing in the streets below. At first it looks like a coffin is being carried through the streets, but our driver tells us it’s a religious symbol being transported from a temple.

Over the past 150 years tea plants have turned the hills of Sri Lanka into a stunning green landscape.