I don’t know about you, but we drink more tea than any other drink. It’s what starts our day and, for Jane, it closes the day too. But, like most Brits, we plop a thin paper bag, containing some tea dust into a mug and pour boiling water on it. After a visit to the Halpewatte Tea Factory in the beautiful tea country of Sri Lanka, we’re fairly sure the bags are going to be history.
The factory is about a 20-minute tuk-tuk ride from the centre of Ella in Sri Lanka – hairpin bends *may* be involved! On arrival, you are whisked up to the top floor of the four-storey factory building to buy a ticket for the tour, which last about 45 minutes.
The first 10 minutes are spent class-room style with an explanation of how tea is produced from the leaves and also the difference between black, green and white teas.
Fun fact number 1: All tea is produced from the same plant species. It is the process that determines its colour, caffeine content and quality.
The group then follows the process which corresponds with a descent through the building. Green leaves in at the top and then through processes of drying, oxidisation, maceration and sieving, we end up with the finished product by the time we’re on the ground floor.
Fun fact number 2: The new-growth leaves (the only bit used in tea-making) on a tea plant are harvested by hand every 7-10 days.
Our guide was fun and interactive, pulling handfuls of today’s batch out of the process at various stages for us to handle and smell. The workforce laughed and joked with him as they went about their business.
Fun fact number 3: The export quality tea comes from the smaller leaves at the top of the stem. Rather then sort the leaves after picking, a high-tech machine can sieve out the export tea by colour at the end of the process.
There is so much that goes into good tea and the far superior product that we have tried whilst travelling throughout Sri Lanka has made us vow to take our tea-drinking more seriously. So out with the teabags and in with a pot of flowery orange pekoe.