A train winds its way slowly through undulating hills blanketed in green. Dotted across lush ranked fields, women quickly but meticulously harvest leaves by hand, baskets slung across their backs. Stretching across the island’s midsection, this is Sri Lanka’s tea country and quite possibly the origin of your favourite morning cuppa.
Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is the world’s fourth largest producer of tea. It is also one of the few places in the world where harvesting is still done by hand. Skillful workers deftly pluck the most flavoursome and aromatic parts of the bushes – the topmost leaves and buds – which are then sent to nearby factories to be dried and processed.
The first tea plantations were established in Kandy in the 1860s and now most of the scenic central region’s elevated slopes are covered in contoured rows of painstakingly maintained plants. Breathe deeply as you stroll through the lush plantations, and take time to learn about the leaves’ historic journey from soil to cup at the Ceylon Tea Museum in Hantana, Kandy. There you can sample some of the premium teas produced in Sri Lanka and learn about the fine art of tea appreciation while enjoying views over the museum’s grounds which are landscaped with the different tea varietals.
Many of the region’s tea factories offer tours which include walks through the plantations, a closer look at the manufacturing process and tastings. If you’ve never understood the joy a simple cup of tea can bring, this may be the perfect place to start.
This region felt a world away from the dry heat of the low country. Wake up early enough to spend the morning hiking through spectacular mountainous scenery and numerous tea plantations – and be rewarded with a nice fresh cup at the end!
What to do
- Wind your way through the lush tea plantations
- Visit a local factory to learn all about Sri Lanka's tea industry
When to Go
The temperature in the hills is significantly cooler than in the cities, averaging between 17-20°C. Humidity is also lower here. The dry seasons, and the best times to visit, are between December and March and then again from July to August. You'll experience wetter weather conditions in April and from October to November.