The advertisements of any tea beckon to me like few do. There is a freshness and green aura about these ads that leave me feeling energized after watching one, even if I cannot have tea that instant. Naturally, tea estates and tea factories rank high in my list.
Initially when K and I planned this trip, we wanted to stay in a tea estate. We were not bothered much about what star accomodation it was. We just wanted to stay in the estates, I wanted to pluck tea leaves and fling it into my basket with elan and sing and gossip with the ladies who work on the plantation. Ah well, it did not happen this time. So, we wanted to atleast visit a tea estate and see the beauty for ourselves. R was more than willing to take us and after a hearty meal, we found ourselves at a tea promotional centre and small cottage industry of sorts.
As soon as entered, there was a winding stairway that led us to this sitting area. We were just seated a little behind these chairs as the manager of the promotion centre spoke to us of Ceylon tea and the tea-making process. He mocked the use of tea bags saying that they are nothing but tea dust and the least flavourful by-product of the entire process. We had a great time learning the process. Since it was a powerpoint prsentation, there really wasn’t much I could capture.
Visiting a real tea factory where the process happens right before your eyes is something. But I guess, something of this sort was better than nothing. Moreover, we watched videos of a real factory in full swing as well. While they served us some amazing green tea and jaggery to go along, I admired the beautiful attires of the ladies who worked there. The prints were so detailed and they had such grace about them.
Often, I have watched tea estates in movies and always wanted to be there. I still have that longing. To smell a new tea leaf, to walk amidst the aroma of coffee beans is a joy inexplicable for a tea-coffee lover like me. There used to be a time when I would shamelessly gape at people who would turn down tea/coffee. ” Really?” was written all over my face. That was once upon a time. While I still try my best to advertise coffee and tea, I don’t bug people anymore. And definitely, no more gaping.
Being a promotional centre and a very small cottage industry, they only rolled and dried a small quantity of tea leaves across the area. I stooped silly and tried to get a whiff of the magic called smell of tea.
Being a promotional centre, a small sale was expected. However, they were very endearing and definitely did not impose the purchase. The colourful packaging and souvenir tea packages were vey pretty. We ended up buying a few boxes of green tea leaves grown on their farm. And trust me, they are amazing ! Everytime K or I brew some tea, the whole home smells of it and it creates such a positive energy.
Tea, these days is available in flavours that outnumber one’s strands of hair. Trust me. There is blackberry, plum, chrysanthemum, apple peach, blueberry, citrus, ginger, ginseng and what not! All this is apart from the red, black, green teas. We did not buy any of these flavours though. We just stuck to the original estate grown ones. Not the ones that are flavoured and imported from somewhere to Sri Lanka.
Finally, on our way back, we got to see what we wanted to for so long.
I cannot share the obscene number of photos I clicked there. A few ladies came to me along with kids, especially an elderly lady and requested for a photo. You know that feeling when someone asks for your autograph? Okay, I don’t know either but it probably matched the feeling I had, in intensity. Feeling flattered, I asked K to click a snap of hers and mine together. K gave me a mischievous smile and clicked. While I pondered the reason behind the smile, the lady stretched her palm and said, “Money. Money. Photo money”
All the big temples I constructed for myself in that past one minute, out of elation for having been asked for a photo, vanished! We gave her some money. All through the rest of the walk along the estate, I just meekly smiled at the 20 -30 more elderly women, children and teenagers who asked me for a snap and walked unabashedly.