Ceylon Tea Trails

Sri Lanka has almost become synonymous with golden sandy beaches, spices, tender coconuts, and the famous “Ceylon Tea”. A Ceylon tea trail experience is something that you should never miss. 

Tea was first introduced to the country during the British rule in Sri Lanka and flourished when people recognized that multiple varieties of tea can be grown throughout the island. Today, tea estates are the most common thing you will see in many parts of Sri Lanka’s hill country.

The main tea growing areas in Sri Lanka are Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Uva district, Sabaragamuwa, Dambulla, and Ruhuna.  The tea grown in higher elevation is known to be lighter than tea grown in lower elevations. The different types of tea appeal to different people around the world. Some prefer it light, while others prefer it strong with a less subtle taste. 

Ceylon Tea Trails Experience

A lot of tea estates around the country have factories to collect, process and dispatch tea. Many of these factories are open to the public and it is possible to take a guided tour through the entire factory where you will get a close view of how tea is plucked, selected, and processed. Visiting a tea factory is a memorable tea experience you can enjoy in the hill country of Sri Lanka.

If you wish, you can take part in a detailed tea picking experience and get an insight into various steps of tea processing—from fermentation, curling, drying, sieving, to grading and packaging, some might even give you a tutoring on blending and tea tasting.

The entire process is fascinating and it allows visitors to observe the lives and routine of Sri Lanka’s tea pluckers. 

Tea is a plant that is pivotal to the Sri Lankan economy and is the main source of income for a large population in Sri Lanka. Entire families are structured around tea and the work involved in processing, packaging and distributing it. Thus you will understand why  Ceylon tea is part of Sri Lanka’s DNA.

The Best Tea Plantations To Visit in Sri Lanka:

Following are the major tea growing areas in Sri Lanka:

Central Province – Kandy and Nuwara Eliya

Uva Province – Badulla, Bandarawela and Haputale

Southern Province – Galle, Matara

Tea Plantation In The Central Province – Kandy And Nuwara Eliya Districts

Kandy :

James Taylor, the British tea planter who introduced tea to Sri Lanka, in a letter home to Scotland had greatly admired the beautiful sceneries of the countryside, Hewaheta from his estate, Loolecondera. He had mentioned that one should see for themselves in order to experience the beauty of this hill country and its tea plantation. His love for the Kandyan hills was so profound that he spent the rest of his life in these hills and was buried here after his death in 1851. 

It was in Kandy where the whole story of tea cultivation began. The Kandy is a part of the Central Province of Sri Lanka with its capital located in a relatively low-lying valley with all tea estates carpeting the surrounding hills of  Nilambe, Hantane, Pussellawa, Gampola and Hewaheta. The tea of the Kandy region is known as mid-grown since it is grown in lower attitudes ranging between  650m and 1,300m (2,000-4,000ft). The tea produced here is stronger and deeper-coloured than the rest of the region’s produce. They range in flavour depending on the altitude and whether the plantation is influenced by monsoon winds. All are flavoursome, and produce a bright infusion with a coppery tone, and are strong and intensely full-bodied.

“Not often is it that men have the heart, when their one great industry is withered, to rear up in a few years another as rich to take its place; and the tea fields of Ceylon are as true a monument to courage as is the lion of Waterloo“ said, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Nuwara Eliya :

Nuwara Eliya, consisting of rugged mountains, has the highest average elevation. It is a popular tea-growing district. The city is overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. Blessed with a temperate, cool climate, it is known as the coolest area in Sri Lanka.

Due to its location in the highland, Nuwara Eliya has a subtropical highland climate with no prominent dry season, with a monsoon-like cloudy season and with a mean annual temperature of 16 °C (61 °F).  In the winter months, there can be frost at night. 

Its unique climate, coupled with the peculiar terrain catalyzes the production of tea that is recognized by connoisseurs as among the finest – if not the finest – in the world.

The following is the Taster’s Notes for Nuwara Eliya tea:

Nuwara Eliya, the best-known of Sri Lanka’s tea-growing districts, is the most mountainous and has the highest average elevation. Combined with low temperatures, this produces teas of the exquisite bouquet. The infusion in the cup is the lightest (palest) of all the types of Ceylon Tea, with a golden hue and a delicately fragrant flavor. Sought after grades include whole-leaf Orange Pekoe (OP) and Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP).

Tea Plantation In The Uva Province – Badulla, Bandarawela And Haputale Districts:

 Badulla :

Badulla is the capital of Sri Lanka’s remotest province, Uva for which access is possible only over steep, winding mountain roads. It is located not far from Kandy and Nuwara Eliya.

According to the Tasters Notes, the tea produced here has a special, unmistakable character and exotically aromatic flavor. The winds of both northeast and southwest monsoons endow the tea with such qualities.

It was with tea grown on his Uva estates that Thomas Lipton, the Victorian magnate, persuaded Americans to drink tea. The mellow, smooth taste of Uva tea, once experienced, is easily distinguished.

Bandarawela & Haputale :

Both Bandarawela and nearby Haputale are located at the center of Sri Lanka’s hill country. One can indulge in beautiful experiences such as exploring the surrounding hills; hiking through tea plantations to the stunning viewpoint at Lipton’s Seat or walking through the fields around the tea factory at Dambatenne.

Bandarawela is 200 km (120 mi) away from Colombo and due to its higher altitude, compared to surrounding locations, it has milder weather conditions throughout the year.

Haputale is located at an altitude of 1431 m (4695 ft) above sea level. CNN in 2010 named Haputale as one of Asia’s most overlooked destinations.

Containing numerous varieties of flora and fauna, it has a rich biodiversity. The surrounding hills are covered with cloud forests and tea plantations. The climate is cooler than the surrounding areas due to its elevation and Haputale provides beautiful views across the Southern plains of Sri Lanka.  Haputale mountain ridges make the South-West boundary of the Uva basin.

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