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… not often it is that men have the heart, when their one great industry is withered, to rear up in a few years, another, as rich to take it’s place and the tea fields of Ceylon, as true, a monument to courage as is the lion at Waterloo.

Sir Arthur Conan  Doyle

An essential element of my trip through Sri Lanka was the tea.

I drink liters of it, and I like to smell it and use it in the kitchen. The pictures of plantations seen in magazines have always fascinated me, and that’s why the central and longest periplus was dedicated to the Hills County, whose undisputed king is Ceylon tea.

Viaggio attraverso lo Sri Lanka in pratica

The Hills County of Sri Lanka, Kandy

If you share my passion, I truly recommend a stop in Kandy to visit the Museum of Tea in Hantane, just 3 kilometers from the city center. It is an old tea factory located in the hills in the middle of plantations, not far from the birthplace of Sri Lankan tea, Loolecondera, where James Taylor began the cultivation of this green gold.

Il tè di Ceylon

Here you will find a resale and a tea room used for tasting. At the same time, the museum occupies the first three floors of the factory where among ancient machinery, original tools, books, pictures, and accessories that belonged to Sir Taylor, you can trace the history of tea and its production and appreciate the natural therapeutic properties and the economic value represented to this small island once internationally contended.

Il tè di Ceylon

Il tè di Ceylon

On the second floor, in between a peek at the view from the beautiful stained glass windows and a caress to the wooden walls, I learned that tea arrived in Ceylon 145 years ago as a result of an epidemic caused by a fungus that destroyed all the coffee plants, then predominant culture on the island. James Taylor then introduced tea from India and started to sell it in England in 1873. Today Sri Lanka is the third-largest producer and exporter, and its tea stocks market handled by the Ceylon Tea Board beats auctions every day! Yes, the tea is auctioned … and this must be marked with the official mark with the symbol of the lion, guarantee of origin, sustainability (pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are banned in Sri Lanka), and working expertly according to the five “orthodox” steps (withering, rolling, fermentation, drying, and selection).

Il tè di Ceylon

Another essential condition of Ceylon tea is the absence of mechanization, which on the one hand makes it very nice, traditional, and highly photogenic, on the other states and maintains a tragic life for Tamil women, imported as slaves from India together with the first seedlings and even today forced into a form of modern authorized slavery.

Il tè di Ceylon

They live inside or on the edge of the plantations, in shacks owned by the various Tea Companies, from which they depend in everything and for everything. Seeing them walking barefoot on the stony paths behind some bushes while collecting shoots and young leaves of the oh-so-precious Orange Pekoe and loading it into jute bags hanging on their foreheads gives me goosebumps every time I think about it. Sir Lipton is now, for me, a symbol of this situation, and I can’t sip his tea anymore… traveling is also this.

Ceylon tea and hikes in Nuwara Eliya

This is one of the capitals of the Ceylon tea together with Uva and Dimbula, and for this, it is a sort of little England. As mentioned in my practical post about the road trip through Sri Lanka, it was not for mere climate issues; this hill town could easily be mistaken for a small British village. Cottages in the pure English style, racetrack, polo field, golf course, Country Club, and flowery gardens … all surrounded by tea plantations!

The most famous, also because it comes down to the village, is the Oliphant Estate, which decreed the fortune of Nuwara Eliya. Both the plantation and its factory, The Ceylon Breweries, are open to the public. Another significant plantation is the Mackwoods Tea Estate, a few kilometers from Nuwara Eliya along a narrow road that winds through tea bushes that seem to multiply indefinitely. The boutique tea room is well stocked, and the packaging is truly ideal for elegant gifts!

Il tè di Ceylon

Lovely Haputale

Perhaps it would be more correct to say the tea all around Haputale, as this small urban area is surrounded by it! This detail also means that the railway line between Nuwara Eliya and here is the most scenic and exciting of the country. Of course, if the tea is not for you, this destination is better to be canceled from your route … there’s nothing to do but visit the spectacular and unfortunately still colonial plantations of Sir Lipton, taste and buy tea.

Il tè di Ceylon

As explained in the previous post, the Websitelink internet and tea center a short walk from the station; it is a small cave of Ali Baba, and you will find tea and packages of all kinds. If you want to stock some, this is the ideal place to do so!

How to drink Ceylon Orange Pekoe?

First of all, it must be said that, contrary to the dreamy imagination of purist tea lovers, in Sri Lanka is consumed in bags or at least in fabric triangles; to find it in leaves or loose powder is not so easy as I hoped.

Il tè di Ceylon

The Sinhalese warm the water without letting it boil, then dip a teabag per cup to be served and leave to infuse for five minutes. Once infused, tea is served sweetened and stained with a bit of cold milk or in the most elegant restaurants and bars with milk foam.

I use to drink it hot and bitter … amen.

A recipe based on Ceylon BOP

In Kandy, at the Tea Fortress, I tasted some delicious apples flavored with tea. Here’s how to prepare them:

  • bring to a boil 50 cl of water to which mix 125 grams of sugar and 30 of glucose
  • remove from the fire and soak 8 grams of tea for two minutes, then strain the whole
  • add the juice of one lemon and pour into an ice cream maker (or as I do: in a container of aluminum stored in the freezer for two hours, stirring occasionally)

in the meantime:

  • heat the oven to 160 degrees, grease a baking dish, and pour a cup of water in, then put the halved and cored apples (Golden or rennet)
  • put a teaspoon of butter on each half of the apple and cover with honey
  • bake for 20 minutes

while baking the apples:

  • bring to a boil 25 cl of apple juice to which mix 20 grams of sugar and 10 of gelling agent for jams
  • remove from the fire and soak 5 grams of tea for two minutes, then strain the whole

finally, serve the apples coated with tea and apple gelatine on a bed of tea sorbet.

Il tè di Ceylon

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Silvia's Trips

Hi there! My name is Silvia and after 15 years between the Paris Opera and the Palau de les Arts in Valencia I now run a boutique hotel in Cinque Terre, deal with tourism management and blogging, sail, horse-ride, play guitar and write about my solo trips around the world. For more info about me and my travel blog check my full bio.