Even in the ridiculous heat & humidity I was still managing to polish off a good few brews a day. If you know anything about me you will know I run on cups of tea, I was brought up on the stuff and I think I must bleed Yorkshire tea. I dragged Robbie out of bed early (again) and in to a Tuk Tuk heading for the Uva Halpewatte tea factory somewhere in the hills surrounding Ella.
I had read you had to be there early to see any activity, we asked the driver to put his foot down which resulted in nearly risking our lives on the way up there in the worst Tuk Tuk known to mankind. The driver definitely didn’t take passengers that often and he most certainly wasnt experienced on hills. I closed my eyes and held on as I could feel us rolling back, jolting our way up a half concrete, half deadly loose gravel track. The things I do for a good brew.
We arrived at just gone 9am, the place was deadly quiet, we walked through the factory and up to the gift shop / reception, we had missed the last tour of the day. I don’t know what time you have to get here to see the whole factory in action but all activity had stopped by 9am. They still run the talk & the tour and turns out all we had missed was the tea ladies bringing their bags in for weighing and the drying process. There was still a tour of the factory & tasting to be had so we handed over our 300 Rupees and sat waiting for our guide.
I’m a sucker for anyone who is passionate about their job, this guy… well he took it to a new level. He loved tea and everything about it. The process, his factory, the distribution… everything! I though I flew the flag high for a cup of leafy goodness but he beat me on all accounts. We sat in the drying room, sweat pouring from every possible place on my body, listening to how the tea is picked, dried, processed, packed and then distributed worldwide.
The tea pickers get around $3 a day for a 5kg bag of tea that they balance on their heads and deliver to the factory every morning. We were taught about the leaf & how they only need to pick the bud meaning all leaves surrounding are discarded to the ground. We had the four main qualities of tea drilled into our brains.
Quality, strength, flavour & colour. The leaves are picked, dried, rolled & then separated into different grades for bagging. The smaller the leaf the stronger it is, the grade is why we see a difference in price on our supermarket shelves. We walked around the whole factory, through each process and finally to a tasting table, where each grade / strength of tea was available to try. It was so interesting and I was in tea heaven. We tipped our guide & begged a Tuk Tuk to take us down the torturous hill back to our home stay.
The clouds rolled in for the afternoon and we experienced a hill country monsoon. We hung out on the balcony watching the rain & then decided to put our macs on and go exploring. We walked all through the tea plantations opposite our home stay, walked the railway tracks back to the station & then started out for Little Adams Peak again.
The rain had stopped as we completed our mini workout for the afternoon, a week of Curry & rice had stated to take its toll on my body. We practically ran to the top & I’m glad we did because the thickest white fog was coming in fast. We managed to grab some more photos at the top & then descend down into the closest bar to dodge more downpours. Banana leaf curry & lion beers saw out our last rainy night in Ella & one last visit to the passionfruit Mojito king & puppies at One love bar.