Time for some Sri Lankan black tea.

— Ahh, nothing like a fresh cup of tea— I said.  As we sip on the finest grade of Sir Lankan black tea. Surrounded by 750 hectares of tea plantation in the Hill Country in Sri Lanka.
— Shane you are so lucky to live here and work here.— We kept repeating this to Shane as he drove us around the tea plants. He is Ben’s cousin and he works for the biggest tea planters in Sri Lanka. Brits own the company like all tea planters in Sri Lanka, but they are mainly run by Sri Lankans.
Why is he lucky? He lives in an old colonial British style bungalow provided by the company, with huge rooms and furnished the British style. He has 5 servants: 2 cooks, 1 gardener, 1 housekeeper and a night watcher. The company provides a fast motorbike and they pay for all utilities.  He is LUCKY to work surrounded by one of the best views a man can ask for at work. Tea plants all around, up and down everywhere your eyes can grasp tea is growing, young, old, tall short screaming green. Tea planters are consider to have one of the best jobs in Sri Lank, and no kidding. It’s an ideal environment to work in, Hot Toddies style. Hint Hint. Too bad the woman in the company are mainly tea pickers who delicately pick 18 kg of the finest youngest tea per day for $5 a day.  $5 a day can’t even buy the cheapest beer now day.
We pass them slowly on the way to the factory to find the secret behind black tea. Up on arrival Shane gave us up to his coworker and the exploration began.
—Did you know that it only takes 3 hours to make the finest black tea?
The factory had a character, British old school character it was built in 1832. It smelled so fresh, so green and so tea. Dehydration process is first, after picking the youngest leaves from the tea plant; the leaves are places on a large plate for 45 minutes -1.5 hours to dehydrate 40% of the moisture. Grinding the leaves was next; in a giant mixer they are grinned into different sizes and placed into fermentation process. Fermentation is done for 1.5 hour, after grinding and breaking the leaves they release a natural juice, it’s the key to fermentation. After fermentation the leaves enter a giant heater.  Our guide was most excited to show us the heater it screamed and shined with fire. I was scared when we came near it, I don’t like fire, I got burned at the Full Moon party in Koh Phangan once.
Once the tea is dried it forms its rich dark color and is places on screens that filter into different grades of black tea. It’s the size of the tea that distinguishes its quality; additional to the type of plant the leaves are picked from. The larger the grade the better quality the tea is the finer the grade the lower quality.  There are 22 different grades of tea, from fine powder formula to visible leave formations. Usually higher grades in Sri Lanka are exported leaving only the lower grades for locals to drink up. Sri Lanka is the 4th biggest producer of black tea in the world. Kenya, India, and China are among the others.
Tea can grow anywhere between 0 to 1,500 meters above sea level. The elevation determines the brewed color of the tea. The lower the elevation the darker the color of black tea. The higher the elevation the lighter the color of black tea. They say, tea that grows higher up has more flavor as it takes longer for the leaves to grow allowing for the juices to produce slower and creates a richer taste.
— I always though, the blacker the better.
In some way I was thinking right, if you brew a shit load of black tea it will be dark and strong, Google the proportion directions carefully to get the best results and flavor.
All that and it only takes three hours to get the best quality of black tea ready for packaging.  Each grade is packed into bags and sent off for Wednesdays auction in Colombo. The factory only auctions their tea, the tea is then shipped to other companies it gets nicely packaged and sold separately. Black tea is often flavored as Earl Gray, English Breakfast and sometimes other fruity flavors like strawberry, cherry, apple or vanilla. Poland is a big consumer of black tea; we grew up drinking the Sri Lankan stuff.
Nothing beats living with Shane and his wife Gayatri for 5 days and drinking the freshest and best quality grade of black tea in his fancy British style bungalow. Appu, the cook always knew how to brew the tea right he was our morning cup of tea. Every morning he wheeled in a pot of black tea, served in two fancy mugs, along with some sweet suga. The sun was shinning, green view enhanced and we sipped the chats away.
Appu was a hit he cooked for us every day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some good Sri Lankan food, everyday a different flavor, different dish, it was Amma’s style, perhaps even better. We live the good life.
  Life was good thanks to Shane.

((due to the factory policy we were unable to take photos of the tea process and the factory)

tea, tea, tea, tea…

Tea, tea, tea and more tea

Shane’s Bungalow 

Tea is about to be rolled out.

Breakfast

18 KG of tea

Our new Bro.

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