Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ceylon Tea Trails

The Dilmah Tea Company owns the Dunkeld Estate, the 220 hectare plantation and tea factory just a short distance up the hill from Castlereigh Bungalow. The tea factory has a visitor centre which welcomes guests from all the Ceylon Tea Trails residences.  
 A close up of the Camellia Sinensis plant which came to Sri Lanka in the 1800s, and which now covers most of the central highlands area. The tea industry (now Sr Lanka's biggest export earner) was started by the British James Taylor in 1867.
 We were taken on a very interesting tour by Bernard, who knows the tea business inside out! These bushes are all hand plucked (leaves are plucked every week or so). With good management plants can  keep producing over a hundred years.
 He took us through all the factory processes - from withering the leaves, to the first cut .......
 to the second and third rolling the fermentation stage.......... We were surprised by how low tech and organic the process remains. The tea makers make judgments about every stage of the process based on years of experience and finely calibrated skills - not based on machines or computers - a lot like wine making really .........

 and finally, single estate, made at source, Dunkeld Broken Orange Pekoe Fanning (BOPF) tea ....ready for auction.
 The smell of fragrant (and fermenting) tea permeates the factory....
 The tea pluckers are all tiny hardworking women (mostly Tamils). Their base pay is $6 a day as long as they pick 18 kg of leaves. Those bags they're carrying by a band around their heads are up to 15kgs by the time they're full. Apparently these women can earn decent money for any bags they pick over the 18kg baseline. Like a lot of other estates now Dunkeld supports a health centre and a school for the families of the pickers.
 Just like yesterday it bucketed down rain all afternoon leaving us plenty of time to enjoy our beautiful accommodation - early evening G & Ts, reading, socialising and then another beautiful evening meal. We enjoyed our conversation with other guests from the UK who own a sailing boat that they keep moored in Cannes in the Mediterranean. The boat has special significance because it was made in 1937 and used to be owned by JFK!!
Everything about our stay here has been superb!

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