One of the highlights of my time in Sri Lanka was visiting the central region of Kandy and the tea plantations. Not only because it didn’t rain that day (seriously we had some of the hardest downpours ever while I was there – in the dry season) but because I was able to see the beautiful countryside and interact with the people.
Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth largest tea producer and the industry employs over 1 million people. It has recently been surpassed by Kenya as the world’s largest tea exporter (as to producer). The temperature, humidity and rain in the central region leads to some of the best high-quality tea. Check out this guide to Sri Lanka.
Picking tea is hard work. The women get around $2 for a basket of tea leaves. They use a stick to lay across the plants and anything that is sticking up above the stick is picked for tea. They carry the baskets on their heads for the duration of the day. I put one of these empty basket on my head and it was already heavy! I can’t imagine carrying it around for the day full of tea.
I asked my guide what tea plantation we were at and what the name of the brand was. He said it didn’t work that way. All of the tea that is picked is collected and taken the the tea plant to be dried and sorted. Once it is sorted and bagged it is put up for auction. Companies such as Dilmah then bid on the tea leaves they want and create their own blends from the tea.
There is a lot that goes into a good cup of tea. I was surprised it wasn’t bitter at all. They said this was one of their premium blends. I bought some green tea from the shop to take home with me. I learned that you can reuse the tea leaves three times without them loosing their potency or anti-oxidant affect.