Tea Time in Ella & Kandy

Considering how much tea we drink at home in the UK, we were soon to discover how little we knew about how it's made and the different grades available. And I expect the next time you come round to ours for a cuppa you'll find us using loose leaf tea, a teapot and a strainer. And possibly even an egg timer. Sorry about that. Hopefully you'll appreciate the difference in taste.

So from Uda Walawe we headed further inland into Sri Lanka's hill-country and to a pretty little village called Ella - best known for the Ella Gap rock formation and the stunning views through it across a sea of tea plantations towards the south coast. With this in mind we set about finding ourselves a suitably picturesque place to lay our hats for a few days and found it in the aptly named The View guest house. Alas our camera lenses weren't wide enough to capture the real expanse of it and so this photo doesn't really do it justice...

With this as a base, we set off to explore the surrounding area, with our first stop being the Uva Halpewatta Tea Factory. There we were given a fascinating private tour of the factory, discovering along the way the withering, crushing, fermenting, firing and sorting processes that all happen within 24 hours of the tea being picked. And also the British colonial history that brought all this to Sri Lanka over a 100 years ago, and how it has remained relatively unchanged ever since. Afterwards we drank some OP (Orange Pekoe) served to us in a cafetiere and with egg timer so we could stir and plunge after 4 minutes, precisely.

Photography wasn't allowed in the factory... whoops!
Dancing on the tea wasn't allowed either
Time's up!

Several kms west of Ella there's a mountain known as Adam's Peak where Adam supposedly first set foot on earth after being cast out of heaven. It also has a couple other names and is a major pilgrimage site... but as we didn't actually go near this peak, let alone climb it, I won't go into that here and now. Instead, we were very grateful that Ella was home to the alternative, and much more up our strasse, Little Adam's Peak... a hill that lived up to its name and thus made for a very pleasant stroll through tea plantations up to its summit. Whereupon we were greeted with some utterly fabulous views across the valley to Ella Rock and beyond, and the opportunity to take some childish jumping photos...

Little Adam's Peak

Suitably enchanted by our previous tea factory visit we then popped along to the nearby Newburgh factory to see how they made Green Tea. Whereupon our ignorance in the world of tea making became really apparent as we both discovered that green tea is made from the same leaves as black tea, it's the fermentation process (or lack of) that makes the main difference.

Another good reason to visit Ella is actually so you can then leave it. The village has the cutest little railway station with a single track line that you can walk along, reminiscent of The Railway Children. And the stretch of line that takes you west and then north towards Kandy, travels slowly through some particularly lovely scenery.

Which takes us, quite literarily, to Kandy. Sri Lanka's second 'city' is another pretty place set around a lake and is probably best know for its Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, home to Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic - a tooth from the Buddha himself. I would tell you more about this, but I'd just be copying words from our guide book as we didn't actually go to see it. Instead we had planned to fuel our increasing tea fascination still further by visiting a tea museum, but it was shut on Mondays. So we settled for a stroll around a town that felt it was stuck in a 1960s time warp, and then took in a Kandyan dance performance before heading to an exceptionally eccentric horror-house hotel called Helga's Folly for a cocktail and some dinner.


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