Coming to Sri Lanka and not visiting a tea plantation is like visiting Paris and not seeing the Eiffel tower.
The hill country between Kandy and Ella is full of tea estates from the English era, back then when Sri Lanka was still Ceylon. First the English tried to grow coffee, but after a disease attacked the plants they switched to tea. In 1867 the Ceylon tea was born.
In all the factories you can see some good old English machinery still working like 100 years ago. But the English needed people to work on the plantations. They brought Indian Tamils over to Sri Lanka to work on the plantations.
The tea pluckers are the true heroes of the tea industry.
We were lucky enough to speak to some. With basic English they explained they have to collect around 18 kilos of leaves in 8 hours by hand, they showed us their employment card, where everything they collect is written down and told us how much they earn. It’s only aprox. 500 rupees a day. Whaaat? This is around 2.70€! I felt sooo sorry for them. They work so hard. Although it was just 15 degrees they were bare foot and, on their lunch break they shared their food with the stray dogs. I could hug every one of them. I asked some of them if I may take some pictures while they were working – they all agreed and when I showed them the picture on the camera, they laughed sincerely. I couldn’t help myself and gave all of them some money as a thank you for posing. They were really happy as I had the feeling they didn’t expect anything. So please, if you happen to see some workers and want to take pictures – just ask them and give them a dollar or two. This doesn’t mean anything to you but for them it’s a lot!
Where to go?
Best towns to base yourself for visiting tea plantations are Ella, Haputale and Nuwara Eliya. Down south on the coast near Koggala beach is also a very good tea estate called Handunugoda, where they produce Virgin white tea.
Also don’t miss Lipton’s seat (near Haputale), where you’ll drive through tea plantations to a lovely viewpoint.
When driving from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy I was amazed by the amount of tea estates. It crossed my mind that it would be a good idea to hire a driver to take you from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy or vice versa and stop at different estates + you can take as many pictures along the way as you want (we were cramped in a bus, because the trains were on strike).
In Nuwara Eliya we visited Pedro tea estate, where the workers were especially friendly and forthcoming.
In Ella we drove to Uva Halpewaththa Tea Factory, where we enjoyed some tea with a nice view over the nearby tea covered hills.
They produce green, black and white tea – it depends on the size of the leaves. Virgin white is again a very special kind which is produced only in Handunugoda estate. We (or better said I) are big lovers of green tea – the jasmin infused was sooo good, but I liked also the black teas here although I usually don’t drink it. White tea was quite new to me and I also enjoyed it very much.
A big plus are the cakes – where there is tea, there is cake. 😊
I’m sure you’ll enjoy the hill country of Sri Lanka. When you are there drink a cup of tea for me as well and please think of the hard-working women, you will make their day.
Here’s our VLOG from this part of Sri Lanka: