Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tea Time

We spent part of our fourth morning in Sri Lanka touring a Tea Factory. We wanted to learn all about the process of growing, harvesting, roasting and, of course, drinking tea.

Sri Lanka is actually the 4th biggest producer of tea and, depending who you talk to, either the second or third largest exporter of tea (behind Kenya).

Tea was first introduced to Sri Lanka by the British in the mid 1800's and you can still see the effects today. The factories have a colonial look, with French windows and vintage machines, the roasting is still done by a large oven, stoked with firewood (we threw a few pieces in - it was HOT), and the factory housing has British names and styles.

The actual plantations are gorgeous. The tea is planted in rows that contour to the shape of the land. The tea bushes grow low to the ground and are interspersed with different trees sprouting occasionally. Steep rock stairs wind down the slopes of the plantations and labours in brightly covered scarves wander about harvesting. It looks to be extremely hard work, the term 'back-breaking' comes to mind, but the views will take your breath away.

Once we were done walking throughout the plantation and touring the factory, it was time to taste the tea. The top level of the factory has been converted into a serene tea room, filled with whicker chairs and the delicious scents. 

This plantations most popular tea was 'BOP' or Broken Orange Pekoe, so we opted to try that. Sitting in the tea room, sipping our tea and talking to our Sri Lankan 'mom' it was possible to be transported back in time. 

But, as we went to exit, I spotted the locked box below, and was quickly reminded of the difficult labour and little pay that most of the workers live with daily. It is good, if not disturbing, to be reminded of the hard work that goes into the food and drinks I take for granted each day. We donated what we could, in hopes that it will make someone's day a little brighter.

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