Lal, our driver and guide will bring us to a local tea garden today, the area of Galle is in the Ruhuna district. The tea garden is relatively close to the sea, so it is a typical area for ‘low grown’ tea. Sri Lanka has been known for black tea since Sir James Taylor started the first tea garden in the district of Kandy. The main product produced here is still orthodox Ceylon black tea, although some estates also make specialities.
Tea time in the garden
Handunugoda, the tea estate that we visit has a speciality they call ‘virgin white tea’, it’s a precious white tea which is picked using scissors, so no odours and substances can transmit from hands to the tea. Only tips of the tea plant are cut, whithered and dried, treated very carefully. The estate also produces oolong, which is a rare product here at the island. We are treated with tea and cake on a terrace close to a villa, it’s somewhat higher than the surroundings and oversees the beautiful place. A lovely garden, and all around tea bushes and rubber trees on shallow slopes. The rubber trees are big and provide some shade for the tea bushes below. The ‘menu’ shows the teas they serve and is full of claims that those teas cure illnesses. For me this is a bit disappointing, as I am particularly interested in the taste…
Tea estate tour
After our tea & cake we get a private tour over the estate. We see the tea bushes, the nursery for young tea plants. A small factory, machines, a few women working. We see pretty old machines and for a moment it pops up in my mind – how can this all be – with such low production capacity. But all gets clear, this is the place to show to visitors. There are other factories to produce quantities.
Tea tasting & shopping
At the end of our tour a tasting is prepared. Cupping sets ready at a long table, sorted light to dark colour, mild to strong taste. And of course, we have the chance to buy tea. It does not seem cheaper than prices of tea we have seen in the shops, but Lal tells us, biggest advantage is to get it fresh. And yes, here teas are at offer that have been produced in the last few days. Not all teas are better that fresh, but a simple fact is that we, in Europe, hardly get the chance to drink our teas that fresh.