The Tea Country (Gourmet Chick in Sri-Lanka)

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“Does it taste a little gummy?” asked the Norwood Tea Factory’s resident planter, Andrew Taylor. I was swirling a mouthful of cold tea in my mouth with all the concentration that people usually reserve for wine tasting. They take their tea seriously in Sri Lanka, after all it is one of the largest tea exporting nations in the world. Andrew Taylor takes his tea very seriously indeed and he was our guide for a tour of the Norwood Tea Factory deep in Sri Lanka’s tea country in the Bogalantalawa valley. We made our way to the tea country by train from Kandy. Along the way vendors stopped to sell delicious snacks of prawn vadai (lentil cakes topped with prawns) packaged in used school exercise books. Nothing goes to waste in Sri Lanka. Once in Hatton we drove the half an hour to the tea plantations. Set in rolling green hills you could see teams of Tamil workers picking the tea leaves, carefully selecting the required two leaves and one bud from the top of each bush.
 
Travel snacks for sale when the train stopped
 
The process of making the tea was fascinating. After being picked each morning the tea leaves are transported to the factories where they are laid on wire netting to dry or “wither” in the cool breezes that come through the open windows. From here the tea is gathered and rolled in machines that have not changed since the Victorian times, then it is fired and finally graded. The whole process is very labour intensive (like grapes for champagne, tea must be picked by hand) and very natural. It has certainly made me appreciate my cup of tea more and I will no longer be using tea-bags, or juggling the tea-bag in and out briefly “like a dead mouse”.
 
The withering rooms at the factory where the tea leaves are dried
 
We stayed at the Tea Trails, a group of old colonial planters bungalows. These were the height of luxury and a chef came out each day to discuss the menu with you. We were served breakfast, lunch, dinner and of course afternoon tea on the wide verandahs looking out over the tea plantation. My breakfast of boiled eggs with mushrooms, tomato and a hash brown just had to be one of the most perfectly cooked and presented breakfast I have ever seen. The attention to detail was incredible right down to the signature “two leaves and a bud” from the tea plants which garnished every meal.
 
A picture perfect breakfast at Tea Trails
 
Lunches and dinners were a mixture of Sri Lankan curry feasts and more Western food such as creamy mushroom soup or pork fillets served with a peppered sauce and a salad dressed with salad. Dessert was always a highlight and featured dishes such as delicate puff pastry triangles stuffed with berries and accompanied by rich vanilla bean ice-cream. Each afternoon, cream tea was served complete with a tiered cake stand of cucumber sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and delicate tea cakes. The tea from the Norwood tea plantation is sold under the Dilmah brand in the UK.
 
Pork fillet with peppered sauce at Tea Trails
 
Essentials
Details: Tea Trails, Bogalantawa Valley (near Hatton), Sri Lanka (Ph +94 11 230 3888)
Damage: Budget Breaking
9/10
 
Gourmet Travel Tips
The Tea Trails operates on an all inclusive basis (including all meals and alcohol) for €310 for two people a night. It is hands down, the best place I have ever stayed in my life due to the amazing service and sheer decadence and luxury of the place. They even bring you a pot of tea in bed every morning. A tour of the Norwood Tea Factory is included if you stay at Tea Trails.
 
Links
If you liked reading this you might be interested in finding out about the food in Kandy, Sri Lanka for a Sri-Lankan recipe try these coconut pancakes.

9 comments

  1. What a fascinating tour! I believe Sri Lanka is where Ronnefeldt train their tea masters!

  2. Fabulous tour! Am passing on to friend in Sri Lanka right now!

  3. “like a dead mouse” Hahahahhaa! I hear ya! What an amazing tour though – does the air smell of tea by any chance? I have this image/scent in my head!

  4. Gourmet chick
    You are one lucky gal! Sri Lanka sounds like a dream and exotic to boot!
    Nothing beats staying in these places first class too!
    Keep traveling, I am interested!

  5. Sounds superbly gourmet…..and refreshing. Have fun

  6. What an experience! Must be fascinating to see.

    Have you had any Sri Lankan hoppers yet? A must-eat, if you can get them 😉

  7. Sounds like such an interesting place.

  8. wow…sri lanka looks great!

  9. Lorraine – they were certainly serious about their tea

    Kavey – Oh lucky them

    Su-Lin – It does in the factory as all the leaves have just been roasted. Delicious.

    Taste of Beirut – Thanks very much (I know – very lucky)

    Kitchen Butterfly – thankyou.

    A Forkful of Spaghetti – yes we had the hoppers – delicious!

    Greedy Diva – It was

    Ron – It was great

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