The best Ceylon tea plantations in Sri Lanka

by Alessia

If you are looking into the tea box you have a home, is possible that is coming from Sri Lanka. The Ceylon tea is renowned worldwide and it’s one of Sri Lanka’s primary exports product. The tea production in Sri Lanka has an old heritage history, that you may know already.
The first field appears on the hills around Kandy, by the hand of the British James Taylor in 1867 and since then, the tea industry has been growing a lot and faster. The Taylor’s tea estate, a big plantation became soon a trendy in the valley with many others starting one as well.

Today Sri Lanka is one of the first exporter of tea in the World, not just that. The small country below India, on the side of the homonymous ocean, has one of the finest tea in the world, with 28 different grades of Ceylon tea produced at plantations across the island.

The biggest area where tea is produced is Sabaragamuwa and Uva. But the most known with the best Ceylon tea plantations is, without doubt, Nuwara Eliya in the middle of the island. Thanks to the weather conditions of the area, this last one has grown a lot in the past hundred years, making the living for the locals.

What makes Ceylon tea so special

Tea Factory worker explain ceylon tea production and leaves
Tea Factory worker explain Ceylon tea production and leaves

The tea bushes in Sri Lanka are growing at an altitude between 600 and 1200 metres, but there are many fields above this altitude and a lower one. This may affect the flavours of the tea, due climate changing, temperature, direct sun and soli that make slightly different taste in it.

This is the case when experts talk about the character and style of the tea. Also, this is the case to talk about the special Sri Lankan tea flavour. Thanks to the multiple differences in altitude and climate of Sri Lanka (To be honest, unique for such a small island), it has grown a finest Ceylon tea. The designed best black tea in the world.

This nomination is coming from a long heritage in producing tea and well-preserved technique of handpicking and process, even if helped by modern technologies in some cases. Following the traditional methods, coming from over 150 years of history in the tea industry, Sri Lankan has been taking a big part in making the country the first exporter of the finest tea in the World.

But the process to collect the tea leaves every day is not that easy. Thousands of locals are in this process, and every day, they have to collect from 8 to 20 Kg of Ceylon leaf. Even here there are the most experts and not every leaf is the best, in a matter of a fraction of second they know which is good for the production or not.

Why Ceylon Tea is so popular around the world

Ceylon tea is a popular type of black tea. Sri Lanka was formerly named as Ceylon, thanks to this worldwide known quality of tea. It will be served as iced tea or warm. In Sri Lanka there are more than 50 kinds of Ceylon tea taste, depending on the region where it is growing. Caylon (Spelled as say-lown tea) is a properly iconic tea coming from Sri Lanka. Differently, than you might think, the black tea is not just one genre of it, it might come as green tea and other flavours types.

After failing to produce good quality of coffee beans, Sri Lanka, and formerly Ceylon, has become one of the most popular tea producers in the world. Taking the market to recognize Ceylon as an affordable blend from Sri Lanka, even more than the Chinese which is the birthplace of production of the green gold.

Where are the best Sri Lankan tea plantations

Best tea plantations in Sri Lanka
A supervisor of the tea plantation workers is looking after the handpicking

Most of the tea plantations of Sri Lanka are located in the centre of the small island. The weather conditions and the abundance of water and resources have made those places the ideal for the production of the main exporter product of the nation. As we have disclosed already, the high level of hills of Sri Lanka, has made the production of tea vary in flavours and smells. The most noted of the regions are Dimbulla, Nuwara Eliya, and Uva.

The cost of a cup of tea served in the classic teapot in Sri Lanka will be really cheap. In cute Pavillon bar in the Botanical Garden of Kandy, fancy location with green and fresh air we have spent just 30 cents for a cup of tea.

The tea production regions of Sri Lanka include:

  • Dimbulla
  • Nuwara Eliya – Best tea plantations in Sri Lanka
  • Galle
  • Haputalle
  • Badulla
  • Mathurata
  • Uda Pussellawa
  • Ratnapura
  • Ruhuna
  • Kandy
  • Uva

Train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

Tea plantation crossing with the popular instagrammable blue train of Sri Lanka
We crossed the Dimbulla Region, in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, going from Kandy to the tea factories in the middle of the Country

In our 10 days around Sri Lanka, we had the pleasure to visit some of the finest Ceylon tea plantations on the Island. Visit Kandy, one of the most suggestive cities in the country, you can take a direct train to Nuwara Eliya, where the main tea plantations are located.

The train from Kandy to Nanuoya, that will be your closest stop to the final destination is one of the best journeys we had on our trip. You will be on the popular blue train, that you can see in the pictures above. The ticket to Nuwara Eliya from Kandy by train will cost less than a 1£ for a 3rd class ticket, that will take you to stand for most of your trip in a crowded train’s wagon.

If you are planning this trip in advance, we suggest you book your ticket before the ride. You can get a first-class ticket for around 3£ with a reserved seat. By the way, the landscape from the train during your 2 hours and a half ride will be gorgeous. Barely I can remember in my life hills more green than that, all thanks to the tea plantations.

You will be able to go up to 2000 metres above sea level and enjoy some of the best fresh air. From the blue train to Nuwara Eliya you will be able to enjoy little cute and picturesque villages and the view over the tea plantations, hills and lush will leave you breathless.

Sri Lanka tea plantations Nuwara Eliya

Typical Tea Plantation in the Area of Nuwara Eliya - Sri Lanka
Best Tea Plantations in Sri Lanka in the area of Nuwara Eliya

This part of the country is well known as Little England of Sri Lanka. It seems quite funny, isn’t it? The name is coming from maybe the weather, that is really similar to the meteorological condition of England, or for the Tea Plantation that covers all the hills around the residential centre. Obviously this part of Sri Lanka was completely under the United Kingdom, but nowadays, that Sri Lanka is independent, this part is just economical to the English Companies that still sharing participation in the tea industry.

Nuwara Eliya is set in the mountainous area, with an altitude of 1868 metres. The weather, chilly and wet, making it the ideal setting for the tea plantations.

It is really strange how you can pass from hot humid temperatures of Kandy, to wear a jumper and raincoat a few kilometres away. By the way, the unique climate conditions provide a perfect ecosystem, perfect to grow finest Ceylon tea. Today the tea plantations cover over 4% of the territory of Sri Lanka, almost 90% of the harvest is allocated for export all over the world.

Tea Plantation hotels Sri Lanka

Best Tea plantation hotels in Sri Lanka

The tour of Sri Lanka is nothing without understanding how the locals live and works. The tea plantations are the engine of the economy of the country, and recently a new business is taking part in this process. There are many Tea plantations hotels in Sri Lanka, that will permit you to sleep in a countryside residence, be away from pollution and breath fresh air and why not, participate to the process of picking green new leaves from a bush.

Sri Lanka is the home of the Ayurveda practice, so is fairy enough to be hosted in a place where nature is the king. We have selected some of the best hotels, according to TripAdvisor reviews. This will help you to choose wisely your next holiday location in Sri Lanka, close to the tea plantation fields.

Booking.com

Sri Lanka Tea Plantations Tour

The area of Nuwara Eliya is absolutely the first coming in the mind talking about Sri Lankan Tea plantations tour. But the little gem in the Indian Ocean has got many other areas where tea bushes grow from centuries. If you are looking for tour in the tea plantations in Sri Lanka, you can see the opportunities in other areas like Uda Passelawa, Uva, Ruhuana or Dimbula. Below we have highlighted some of our suggested tours of the tea plantations in Sri Lanka. Feel free to look into it, and be sure to book it in advance before your trip will start.

Tea Making Process

Tea Plantation worker in the process of picking the leaves
Tea Plantation worker in the process of picking the leaves

I have to be honest, before visiting Sri Lanka I didn’t know which was the process of making tea. So, that was an advantage point for me. Starting from the bottom of knowledge about tea factories and tea process, I was able to be like a sponge, absorbing everything from who is putting their hands in the business.

We had the pleasure to discover 3 tea plantations in the area of Nuwara Eliya, and see the machine that makes the magic happen. Something that I was surprised about is that the bush last about 50 years and the leaves are handpicked every week. Those numbers can vary depending on the process, quality and kind of tea, but are more or less a statement for the industry.

When you get a box of tea from the supermarket, you will think that is a completely different tea plant, way to grow it differently. But you will be surprised to know that it is the process that makes the difference. All the kind of tea that you know is coming from the same plant.

The handpicked tea leaves are broken down and rolled, that is a process that makes it smaller. The part that ends to be tea bags is called “dust”, and it is collected in the bags that you commonly use. The most expensive tea is white, that is made by buds and not by the leaves.

Workers in Sri Lanka in tea production factories

Workers at a Tea Farm in Nuwara Eliya
Workers at a Tea Farm in Nuwara Eliya

The tea production is a big industry in Sri Lanka. According to BBC data, almost 5% of the population of the nation work in the business. Every day almost 1 million people work on the hills and mountain of central Sri Lanka picking leaves, carrying on the back heavy baskets up and down the slopes in order to process it in the plantation factories. It is a process going on from hundreds of years, since 1867, giving a living to million families all around the country.

It is hard work in hard conditions, and you can understand it just looking at the heavy marks hands of the workers. The daily wage may vary from estate to estate, and from daily weight. From 600 rupee to half of it can be the daily pay rate for a worker on the farm. That is meaning around 3£ for a day at maximum for around 15 Kg of leaves every day, 8 hours a day. The good news is that the government of Sri Lanka is monitoring the industry, looking after the population and the industry.

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