Sri Lankan Tea: from the tea leaf to the cup
When I moved to England, few years ago, I couldn’t help but fall into the English tea tradition. My tea collection slowly expanded and I was introduced to a range of healthy organic teas as well. When I relocated to London, my tea addiction took a turn to the best. I was invited by sofa.com for a tea tasting of the good and proper tea brand. I think that was the moment when I tasted real tea. It was indeed good and proper. From that point on my love for tea increased ten folds and I became accustomed to good quality tea. Going to Costa after that or any of the high street cafes became a torturous experience of drinking something that resembled tea, but not quiet. It tasted more like tea dust.
My love for tea was actually one of the reasons that drove me to visit Sri Lanka. I really wanted to get lost in their endless tea fields and just taste the realest, freshest cuppa. When I finally made it to the land of tea, I tried various tea experiences. I still feel like I should have done more, but that’s just my greed talking. I started with the experiences at the gorgeous Heritance Tea Factory then followed it with a visit to the Ceylon Tea Museum in Kandy and ended it with a visit to the Geragama Tea Factory, which lead me to a tea shopping spree!
Despite the long journey I had, I was so ecstatic to be at the Heritance Tea Factory, that I was very energetic and ready to indulge in the tea experiences they have on offer. I started with the tea plucking experience. It was so much fun! First order of business was getting dressed in a traditional Sari and a fitted head basket for the pickings. The expert lady who accompanied the group and I was so knowledgeable in everything tea. She explained how the right black tea leaf is identified and showed us the difference between the ones used for green tea and white tea. Even after she showed me twice, it was still hard to pick the right leaves. It is a seriously tough job. Having three cameras did not help either. I wanted to photograph and film everything.
The most challenging part was dropping the leaves in the head fitted basket with the wind blowing. I bet half of my leaves danced away in the wind instead of actually making it in the basket. After the plucking that lasted for roughly twenty minutes, we headed back to the micro tea factory that hosted the original machinery of the factory before it was refurbished and we talked about the process of making black tea. Since Sri Lanka is one of the main producers of black tea that was the main focus. It was the end of the day, so the machines were not in operation sadly, but I got to see other tea machines in action when I went to the Geragama Tea Factory and I enjoyed watching the process. It felt so different with people operating it and doing it live. I included it in the youtube video where you can watch here:
After my awesome tea experience in Heritance Tea Factory, I headed to the hotel lobby with the expert for a tea tasting. I have done a tea tasting before, but this one was the real deal. It was done exactly like how their professional taster does it every morning. I was presented with four types of tea: strong black BOPF -Broken Orange Pekoe Fanning-, lighter black BOP -Broken Orange Pekoe-, medium black Pekoe and green tea. They were made to be strong so the flavour is at its fullest. It was like the wine tasting you see in the movies, where the taster takes a mouth full, swishes the liquid in the mouth and then spit. I was sad about the spiting part. It is hard to get the full taste without swallowing it. It is really an art. My favourite was the medium Pekoe, which slightly reminded me of the oolong tea I enjoy a lot. I had to purchase some of that because the tea made in that estate is only sold in the hotel and used there.
When I headed to Kandy, my tuk tuk driver was adamant to take me to the tea factory he knows. The Geragama Tea Factory. I am glad he convinced me because as I mentioned above was amazing to see. Before heading there, I insited to stop at the Ceylon Tea Museum of Kandy. The driver tried to change my mind and told me how boring and an uninteresting, but I told him it was a top choice on the Lonely Planet Sri Lanka guide so it had to be done. He was right. It was not as fun as the real thing. The tour was very informative and you get a “free” cup of tea that you pay for in your entrance ticket. The Geragama Tea Factory was the driver’s plan and a complete coinsdiance. It is free to enter and to be taken around, but everyone is so nice and the tea shop is like a dream, I had to do all my tea shopping there. I came back about three kilos heavier with tea, but to my defence this will be my annual tea supply! If I mention buying any more, please stop me!
PS. The Heritance Tea Factory experiences were complementary from the hotel.