Searching for Tea, Sri Lanka, 2011


We caught the train from Peradeniya [1], a short minibus ride from Kandy [2], where we took the slow train up into the mountains [3]. On the way we passed a Hindu temple in a tea plantation [4] before, after several hours through beautiful countryside [4b] we arrived in the mountains at our destination station [5] complete with its tea kiosk [6].  



It was a short minibus ride to Hauputale [7], a small hill town [8] surrounded by mountains with fabulous views [9] over the countryside, especially from our hotel [10].




The next morning [11] we began our walk up to the higher tea plantations, initially walking up [12] the railway line we had travelled the previous day before entering the paths of one of the local tea plantations [12a]. Here we walked up towards the village at the centre of the plantation [12b] passing its allotments where people grew their vegetables [12c], some of which they sold in the town market, eventually coming to the nineteenth century tea plantation’s manager’s bungalow [13], now used as a rest house for walkers.





The next day we set off in the mists [14] to walk up paths to the highest reaches of the plantation’s slopes [15], passing some magnificent views [16] and meeting some of the plantation’s workers [17] who were gathering leaves from the bushes [18]. From here, we joined a track which lead upwards for a little way further [19] before rounding a bend. 




This brought us to the plantation workers’ village [20]. Now, it was downhill all the way through the village [20a], passed the village school [20b, 20c], following the women who were [21] carrying sacks of leaves down to the gathering point [22] on a bigger plantation road where lorries would pick up the sacks [23] and take them to the tea factory. 



The tea factory [24] was itself high in the hills. First built in 1890 for Thomas Lipton [25] it has been producing tea of various sorts [26] ever since. We saw the tea process from laying out the green leaves to dry [27] to the dried leaves being crushed [28] and checked for quality [29] to them being bag by colour into various grades of tea [30]. 




Nothing went to waste we were told, the sweepings going to make teabags [31]. The tea is then properly bagged up [32] and sent off for international distribution by lorry, initially down an un-made plantation [33] road along which our minibus took us back to Hauputale [34].