Delegation Days in Sri Lanka: A Tale of Teas and Spices


CC


DECEMBER 5, 2018

Time: APPROX. 0300 HOURS

Place: MURMANSK, RUSSIA


Came back to my hotel from Teriberka after living the Moment of the Dream Birthday of a Lifetime amidst the Arctic Tundra, Frozen Arctic Beach and the Majestic Aurora Borealis.

The growl of the Polar winds is still very much present in this area as well (Ah..!! Such a soothing music to my ears)

Glimpse of a white Icy Dreamland from the window of my hotel room in Murmansk, Russia

Although it’s an unquestionable fact that Russia, especially the Arctic is Magical indeed during the peak of Winters, yet the cold does sting (I am still not complaining though). The temperatures south of -12 degree C accompanied by Polar Winds is capable of giving sharp chills to anybody.

Hence, I straightaway increased the room’s heating, went off for a nice and hot bath to ease my cramped hands and legs. Already I could see a spell of heavy snowfall from my hotel’s window post seeing the Aurora Borealis.

Perhaps a cup of hot tea with some cookies can help me enjoy the mesmerizing views of the massive snowfall during my Birthday in this Arctic City of Murmansk – at almost the “edge” of the world.

But tarry a little.

The tea bags contained markings which pointed out their origin to Sri Lanka.

I was momentarily transported back in time – almost one year ago in 2017, when I was sipping the fabled Sri Lankan tea right there in a beautiful tea garden in Sri Lanka – in another part of the world. Another even in life came to a full circle..!!

What a way now to celebrate my 30th Birthday..!! The day (or rather Polar Night) is just getting better and better..!!



A Tale of Teas



Sri Lanka is among the Top 5 tea exporting countries of the World, supplying around 12% of the World’s Tea. Russia is among the top customers of Sri Lankan tea, which quite explains it’s availability even in the “Edge of the world” Arctic city of Murmansk.

And how is it possible that I paid a visit to this beautiful country and missed an audience with it’s prized jewel?

During my visit to Sri Lanka as a Member of the Indian Youth Delegation, I did get not one but two chances of tasting this “golden-orange” elixir, for which even wars were fought in the olden times.

Although I am no expert of Sri Lankan teas, yet I shall try to tell about the two types of teas which I had the opportunity to taste in Sri Lanka. Among the other charming aspects of Sri Lanka like it’s nature, forests, culture and beaches, I would say tea should be the most compelling one and a major driving force to make a tea lover pay a visit to Sri Lanka and have a first hand experience of all the varieties of the highly prized teas available in this beautiful nation.


Nuwara Eliya Tea


Nuwara Eliya variant of tea is perhaps one of the most if not the most sought after Sri Lankan tea variants, akin to the Darjeeling variant of Indian tea.

Nuwara Eliya is a picturesque place located high atop the hills of the Central Province of Sri Lanka. It is usually characterized by moderately cool and moist climate.

We did not get the opportunity to visit Nuwara Eliya. However we still got an opportunity to taste it elsewhere.

Where


Tea Growing region: Nuwara Eliya, Central Province (Elevation is more than 1,600 m above sea level)

Tea Tasting Place: Kadugannawa Tea Factory, Kandy

When


Tea cultivation in Nuwara Eliya was started by the British in the mid to late Nineteenth Century CE. Initially, the hills of Nuwara Eliya was home to coffee plantations until it was realized that the cooler climate and frequent rains were unsuitable for the coffee plants to grow. Hence, the cultivators of this region switched to tea cultivation.

What


The Nuwara Eliya tea is perhaps the most celebrated tea variant of Sri Lanka and finds its name as one of the finest teas in the World.

In my opinion, the colour and texture of this tea variant makes it a close relative of the globally acclaimed Darjeeling Tea of India.

The claim to fame of the Nuwara Eliya Tea is it’s distinctive pale golden hue. There is also a light fruity aroma which is characteristic to this tea variant. The most sought after tea leaf grade among the Nuwara Eliya teas is the Orange Pekoe grade

I prefer having tea in its raw and undiluted form where the leaves are brewed for about 2-3 minutes and the liquor thus served without adding any milk or sugar. I am not quite sure how it would taste in presence of milk and sugar, but I find the raw one taste closest to the desired flavour with the aroma more or less intact.

Visitors to Sri Lanka staying near Colombo or Kandy may consider visiting the Kadugannawa Tea Factory to know more about the various grades of teas (Orange Pekoe, Broken or Flowery Orange Pekoe, etc), the manufacturing process of teas and the most prized (and expensive) golden tip and silver tip teas.


Ruhuna Tea


Another acclaimed variant of Sri Lankan tea is the Ruhuna Tea.

Ruhuna is a sparsely populated forested region of located quite close to the Southern Coast of Sri Lanka. The region is culturally and historically quite rich. Ruhuna region today contributes significantly towards the bulk of tea exports from Sri Lanka.

Where


Tea growing and tasting place: Neluwa (Elevation: Less than 600 m)

Neluwa is a low elevation forested area in the Southern region of Sri Lanka. Neluwa is quite close (about 60 km) from the Southern Port city of Galle.

We paid a visit to Neluwa to see a self sufficient village community residing in the hills. The community through its efforts have build a river bridge. Though the place is quite remote, yet concerted efforts by the members of the village community of Neluwa resulted in building a school and practice farming, tea cultivation alongwith the cultivation of spices like Black Pepper, which are mostly sold. The area is quite scenic with lush green tea gardens decorating the gentle hill slopes.

A Panorama of the Tea Gardens of Neluwa

We were privileged to meet the determined and brave people of Neluwa who chose to be self-reliant despite harsh conditions of Nature and the remoteness of the place. I shall cherish the warmth, friendliness and hospitality of the people of Neluwa.

When


Unlike the other tea growing regions of Sri Lanka, tea cultivation in Ruhuna was started quite later, during the Twentieth Century CE. Ruhuna tea estates claim to be among the earliest ones owned and operated by Sri Lankan people at a time when majority of tea estates in other regions of Sri Lanka were owned by British Colonialists.

What


Tea in general is usually grown in areas with medium altitude (approx. 1,000 to 2,000 m above Sea Level) areas with moderately rainy, frost free weather.

Some teas like the Ruhuna variant grow in low lying areas with altitude of less than 600 m.

It was pretty unique an experience to taste tea unique to Sri Lanka, in an environment which is as close to nature as possible. The reasons for that assertion are as follows:

  • The tea was grown locally
  • The tea leaves were dried without blowers or machines (i.e., sun dried) which should ideally be the case
  • The accompaniment was also locally made (Jaggery)

And thus, the taste and experience were simply out of the world. More so because of the zen feeling of having tasted something local and traditional in the traditional setting, in its place of fame or origin and in the conditions ideal for such consumption, which can never be replicated.

Ruhuna Tea has quite a dark hue. The flavour I found to be quite strong with a distinct smoky aroma. The jaggery decreased the bitterness quotient of the tea, yet neither interfered with the aroma of the tea nor made it too sweet and sticky to taste.

Perfect blending, perfect aroma, perfect taste. Traditional and Authentic Sri Lankan Tea.



A Tale of Spices



Sri Lanka is famous not only for tea, but also for a variety of spices.

Sri Lanka is a major exporter of several spices used in kitchens worldwide for flavouring and for their medicinal value. Some of them are:

  • Cinnamon: Perhaps the Prized Jewel of Sri Lankan spices. The Sri Lankan or Ceylon Cinnamon is globally acclaimed for its strong aroma, flavour and slightly sweeter taste. A glimpse of Cinnamon is provided in the post chronicling My Visit to the Estuarine Wetlands of Madu Ganga River.
  • Black Pepper: I am going to show a glimpse later in this post
  • Cardamom
  • Turmeric
  • Curry Leaves

And many more..


Black Pepper


Black Pepper or Peppercorn is actually a small fruit which is dried and used as a spice. Black Pepper is said to be a spice native to India.

Black Pepper was known to humans since the ancient times. Like Cinnamon, Black Pepper was also very expensive and the aristocrats or Royalty could afford it. Ancient Egyptians used pepper in mummification rituals. Pepper was believed to be the favourite yet the most expensive component of a Roman luxury dish during the ancient times.

Today, black pepper is exported mainly by Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Brazil, Sri Lanka. Black Pepper contains Vitamin K, Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn) and trace amounts of other nutrients.

I got an opportunity to witness the cultivation of Black Pepper in Neluwa.

Black Pepper is known for its spiciness. The Pepper we use in our kitchens are dried fruits.

But pray, what will the raw freshly plucked pepper taste like?

I must warn the people who cannot tolerate spice – Please do NOT try this. I tasted raw pepper. The aroma is superb, stronger than the dried pepper. But it’s terrifically spicy. I had to spit out the raw one seconds after tasting it. It’s good to have it for a one time experience, but I am not tasting raw freshly plucked pepper again.


Until Next Time


The jewels of Sri Lanka never fail to amaze the curious traveler. The country is blessed with naturally beautiful landscapes, beaches and forests. The hospitality and warmth of the people is something to cherish.

The modern Sri Lanka boasts of it’s rich cultural heritage in addition to having a fast growing economy, which is mostly sustainable. The exports of great quality Sri Lankan products have made the country earn a global fame and acclaim.

The Indian Youth Delegation gave an immense honour and privilege to not only represent India as an ambassador, but also understand the intricacies of Sri Lanka. The memories associated with the Delegation will always be cherished. To know more about the Indian Youth Delegation, click here.

I shall be posting a few more articles on Sri Lanka. I urge my readers to check my previous articles on Sri Lanka. Any feedback, share or comments will be greatly appreciated.

Stay Tuned..!!

© Abirbhav Mukherjee. All the pictures / videos posted in this article are my own unless otherwise mentioned.

PS: The use of “CC” is inspired from “Avengers: Endgame (2019)” Movie of Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)

84 comments

  1. I didn’t knew that Srilanka is famous for Tea also ! Thanks you for this incredible knowledge about tea, will surely try whenever i’ll get chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, glad you became acquainted with Sri Lankan Tea. It’s great and a must have tea for tea lovers..!! 😊😊
      Thank you Preeti for sharing your comments.. 😊😊

      Like

  2. Wow! An entire post on the beverage that millions across the world enjoy. If ‘tea’s were a person, it would be pleased. Your post took me back to Nuweraliya 🙂 and that picture of pepper reminded me of the spice gardens. We have pepper growing in Kerala. Somehow I have never been tempted to bite into it and thanks to your experience, I dont think I’ll ever try. Kudos to you for trying though! As always very informative post. Sri Lankan tea but so is darjeeling tea. Tea estates are what I crave to see again- places of tranquility. Thank you for sharing this post with me Abirbhav. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I don’t know about “tea” as a person, but since you said, I believe “tea” must be happy reading this basic post..!!
      Thank you Madam for such a detailed and enthusiastic comment.. 😊😊
      Glad to know that you relived your adventures in Nuwara Eliya and your own home in Kerala.. 😊😊
      (Yes, better not to try out raw pepper. Even I won’t do that any more.. 😉 )
      Would visit Nuwara Eliya whenever I visit Sri Lanka next.. It’s so beautiful, and thanks to your beautiful pictures, it appears all the more alluring.. 😊😊
      Thank you so much Madam.. 😊😊

      Like

    1. Thank you Madam for visiting my blog and sharing your thoughts.. 😊😊
      Well, I am not an expert in tea manufacturing process, but I’ll tell you what I know form what I saw.
      Actually, there are air blowers and giant machines which gently roll the leaves and pass hot, dry air through them to allow them to dry off. Too high temperatures may spoil the leaves.
      There is nothing close to sun-dried leaves as far as tea making is concerned, though I am very much certain that merely placing the leaves out in the open under the sun is not the process. There has to be much more to it. After all, the essence of the leaves, whether mint, tea or anything else, needs to be preserved alongwith their nutrients, so as to be able to command the premium.. 😉
      Do share your experiences as to how how proceeded forward with drying up the leaves? Maybe I can learn some more.. 😊😊
      Thank you once again Madam..!!

      Like

  3. Great post! I’ll come back and have a closer look at your site when I’ve more time, as when I wake up tomorrow early morning 😉 Take care and greetings from Malta!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Madam for your visit and your comment..!! ☺️🤗
      Of course, I shall be delighted to hear your thoughts or suggestions on my posts.. I eagerly look forward to your visit.. ☺️☺️
      Thank you once again..!! You too take care and stay safe.. ☺️
      Greetings to you and your family, from India..!!

      Like

  4. First of all.. thank you Abir, for making me to read this post.😊
    Because I guess now I am prepared enough to bragg and show off… infront of her about tea…😅..that usually you use to do.
    And I think..I should plan my next trip to Sri Lanka with her..😊💙
    This is amazing Abir.💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well thanks for clarifying about “bragging rights” over tea as I practically have none.. 😉
      You are most welcome Anushka.. 😊🤗 Thank you for reading it and sharing your wonderful comments.. 😊🤗 I am happy that it gave you some idea about tea though, despite you being a coffee lover.. 😉
      definitely, do plan a Sri Lankan sojourn with her.. It’s clean, beautiful and offers great scenes to enjoy and the historical sites are an icing on top.. 😊 and, for your friend, there is tea.. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

            1. I understand..!! 😊🤗
              My trips however are mostly solo.. 😉 Gives me the desired Freedom to explore.. 😊
              You are most welcome Anushka.. 😊🤗 Glad you liked it..!!

              Like

    1. Nuwara Eliya is so beautiful, as evident from the pictures. We didn’t get an opportunity to visit Nuwara Eliya or Ella.
      Thank you Madam for stopping by and taking the time to share your thoughts.. 😊😊 Glad to know that you could relive the Sri Lankan sojourn..!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I believe that everyone gets the opportunity, but the choice to make use of those remains with the individual.. 😊😊
      I can daresay that if a person visits any tea growing region in Sri Lanka, he / she will definitely be able to taste the local produce.. 😊 For spices, one must know the region and it’s modalities. It can be quite difficult to sample, but not impossible.. 😊
      Thank you Madam for visiting and sharing your comments.. 😊 Have a great week.. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Madam for your appreciation.. Glad you liked it.. 😊
      Thank you immensely for nominating me for the award..!! Humbled to know that my blog was able to have a good impact on you and you remembered it.. 😊
      I would however have to decline this as it would be unfair on my part to pick and choose some of my followers as my nominations. I consider all of them to be great.. 😊
      Hope you understand..!! Thank you once again.. 😊

      Like

    1. Absolutely Madam.. It will be a whole new level of exhilarating experience.. 😊😊
      Hope you actually get to experience this physically, in Sri Lanka.. 😊 Thank you for reading my post and sharing your comments.. 😊

      Like

        1. Hai ragione. È davvero così bello guardare i giardini del tè, sorseggiando l’oro verde e godendosi i tramonti tra le nuvole. È così romantico e adorabile.. 😊😊

          Like

  5. Enjoyed your travel down memory lane from the realms of Russia. It’s funny how our brains instantly connect things together even though it may be in vastly different disparate parts of the world.

    I visited the tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia – stunning area.

    One of my favourite teas is Darjeeling but also enjoy herbal teas.

    Would love to see the Aurora’s one day…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes..!! I wish you see the Auroras for sure (with your sister if possible, as she shares that name)..!! Satiate your thirst for Russia.. 😊😊
      Yes, our brains work in strange ways I believe.. Don’t have plans to visit Malaysia anytime soon, but if I do, I will pay a visit to Cameron Islands.. I like the tea plantations and the general weather of those places.. Lush, green, wet, and beautiful.. 😊
      Even I like Darjeeling tea as well.. Visited the area long back. Shall pay closer attention to teas when I revisit Darjeeling..!!
      Cheers to tea.. 😊 Hope you visit newer areas and taste different variants of tea.. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for another enlightening and useful article. You put so much effort into your writing – it is very valuable. If I ever visit some of the places you write about, I will have your posts downloaded. Now – Tea! I love black tea. Thank you for writing about this subject. I will now go inspect my cupboard to see the country of origin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha.. Thank you so much Madam once again for such an opulent praise.. 🙂 🙂 Having undiluted black or green tea feels so special right?
      If you like tea so much, please make a combined plan of India and Sri Lanka. There will be about 10-12 Tea growing regions in total in both these countries. Visit each of these places and have as much of their local tea as you want. I am sure you won’t regret the experience.. 🙂

      Like

      1. Absolutely! India is so big, I would have to pick specific areas to visit. The tea growing region(s) look so beautiful. Of course, I’m all about the mountains but a few other trips would round it out nicely.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a lovely post! I feel like I should taste that raw pepper once, though I don’t like spicy and got few knowledge about tea but for me coffeeee is Wowsome!! Great article. Excited to see your next post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, you have been warned about freshly plucked raw pepper though.. 😉
      I also like coffee, but don’t have much idea as of now about it. Like tea, I like it raw and undiluted.. 😀
      Thank you so much for your comment..!! Glad you liked it.. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think you love Sri Lanka as much as me! I have been to Nuwara Eliya to see the team plantations, they are amazing. I went a long time ago though. You are living in Russia or just visiting?? What do you do there? WOW, I would love to see the Aurora Borealis, lucky you! And its your birthday?? Happy Birthday 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, if you ask me about the place I Love the most, then the straight answer is RUSSIA (that too it’s Arctic region in Winter).. I went there in December 2018 to celebrate my Birthday.. Hope to make it a regular affair.. 🇷🇺 ❤ ❄❄❄❄
      Do read the post though. The link is there in the first paragraph itself.. 🙂
      Sri Lanka also occupies a special place in my heart as I went there as a Delegate from India. Had the privilege of experiencing the richness of Sri Lanka and its culture quite close by and in depth. Next time though I would definitely pay a visit to Nuwara Eliya, as per your suggestion..
      Thank you Madam for reading my article and sharing your thoughts.. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

            1. Goa is a good place. But if you need a great beach which doesn’t have much crowd, then you should consider visiting Andaman and Nicobar Islands.. 🙂
              by the way, do read my articles on India (and Russia ❤ ) as well.. Hope those interest you.. 😀

              Liked by 1 person

    1. I also drink green tea, I love that as well. I drink black tea too. It’s sad to know that black tea causes allergy in your case. Stay safe.
      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts.. ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, in Neluwa you can witness tea cultivation in addition to black pepper cultivation.. 🙂 But do visit the place to experience the warmth and friendliness of the people in addition to the scenic views..
      Thank you Madam for reading and sharing your comments.. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah..!! You are indeed a true lover of tea. Great to know that you try to enjoy the essence of tea, which can be had without milk and sugar.. 🙂
      Thank you so much Madam for taking the time to read it and share your comment.. 🙂 There are about 6-7 varieties of tea in Sri Lanka. Go to each of those tea growing regions and taste them.. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Of course, it’s not only good for health but also good to taste. The latter part will be understood by connoisseurs.. 😉
          Thank you so much Madam once again for your appreciation.. 🙂 Hope you have a great trip to Sri Lanka and enjoy tea to your heart’s content.. 🙂

          Like

    1. I am glad to know that you are impressed.. 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and share your comment.. 🙂
      Hope it helps you go and experience these gifts of nature personally.. 🙂 Thank you once again.. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Madam for reading it and sharing your comment..!! 🙂 Glad you liked it and hope it helps plan your trip to experience the prized Sri Lankan tea.. 🙂

      Like

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