Top 5 experiences to celebrate Ceylon tea

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Ceylon tea turns 150 years old in 2017 and tea enthusiasts the world over are celebrating the humble cup of pekoe. A marketers dream, Ceylon is synonymous with tea, each sip of its distinctly full flavour kindles images of undulating, lush tea fields and smiling leaf pluckers through the mist of the early morning. Now a staple in most homes the world over, no one would think Ceylon tea was almost never to be.

The history of Ceylon tea in a nutshell

In response to the great coffee blight decimating Ceylon's once abundant coffee plantations, a young, pioneering James Taylor took the decision to plant tea bush seedlings originally from China in the picturesque hills surrounding Kandy at Field No. 7 of Loolecondera Estate. The experiment was a success, healthy tea bushes took to the local soil, labourers eagerly learnt the new skills of the tea trade, Taylor successfully invented a tea leaf rolling machine to increase production which in turn allowed exports and market value grew exponentially and so the legacy of Ceylon tea was born.

Ceylon, now Sri Lanka is very much on trend at the moment, growing in popularity for its rich culture and history as well as its breath-taking and diverse natural beauty. Given the auspicious 150 year anniversary, 2017 is the ideal year to plan a visit to the island nation and celebrate its most popular national treasure. Here are five top tea experiences to enjoy while in Sri Lanka.

Step back in time

Take a visit to the original Loolecondera tea factory in Galaha and literally take a walk back in time. Now run by the government and still producing quality tea from the original fields, Loolecondera is the oldest and physically longest tea factory in Sri Lanka. A stroll through the building will have you up close and personal with original 19th Century equipment shipped in by the then British Empire. Some of the equipment still in use, others on display as antique treasures, it is fascinating to watch how much of the process remains unchanged from the heyday of James Taylor. Informative tours of the factory can be arranged for guests, through the neighbouring Taylors Hill hotel. Knowledgeable guide Sampath will regale you with his tea-time stories and factual details about the intricate process of tea production from the delicate hand sifting to the origins of the oldest machinery.

Tuk tuk through the tea plantations

After a visit to the factory hop in a traditional tuk tuk and buzz through seemingly endless acres of perfectly manicured plantations. Start with a nod to the James Taylor's memorial statue then tiki-tour through the plantations passed pluckers in their colourful sarees as they queue at weighing stations, cross over bridges and alongside waterfalls then take a moment to read the heart felt ode to the godfather of Ceylon tea at the remains of his original log cabin. You really do feel a sense of history here as you walk the flower garden surrounding the cabin. A visit to Taylor's seat is a must; this is the ideal location for a picnic as you enjoy the panoramic views over the fields and valley. As you drag yourself away from the view and back to your waiting tuk tuk, pay homage to the original, now slightly over grown tea bush that still grows stands nearby.

Check-in to tea-themed luxury

Taylors Hill, the namesake of James Taylor is a luxurious five bedroom property located next door to the historic Loolecondera tea estate. The original stone, tea planters bungalow is surrounded by sprawling grounds of beautiful English style lawns, a tennis court and separate pool room, the main house has ample space to make guests feel as though they are staying in their own private home. Each room is named after historic tea dignitaries and offer stylish interiors suitable for couples and families. For the full experience book the Pattiyagama room. This chic, spacious double or interconnecting room located at the front of the property offers fantastic views across the lawns and into the hills even from the bathtub. Wake up to bed-tea in Pattyagama's bespoke ‘tea' four poster bed, with each post designed to resemble a tea bush. Be sure to take a moment to inspect their enchanting, mini tea-pot collection and one-of-a-kind retro tea advertising wallpaper in the restroom. Rates at Taylors Hill start from US$160 and include breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner.

High tea in an English Garden

Choose your ‘tea de jour'from an extensive menu of traditional golden pekoes, herbals or fruit teas and have it served on the filigreed white iron furniture set out on rolling lawns with an outlook toward Loolecondera. High tea is served in delicate china with all the bells and whistle including a most charming timer to ensure the perfect brew. Enjoy each sip as you graze on cucumber sandwiches, savouries with a local twist and divine, homemade rosemary cake as former tea planters and their wives would have done in days gone by.

‘Tea-total'

What better way to celebrate this worthy occasion and end your day than with an exotic tea cocktail on a candle-lit deck overlooking the poolside. Taylors Hill is currently offering a special menu of tea-inspired cocktails to choose from, I couldnt get enough of the Taylor's Punch a refreshing blend of local dark rum with ginger and honeycomb iced-tea muddled over ice with home-grown mint and tropical fruits - the perfect night cap, to a perfect day.

Harshi Hewage is the Marketing Manager atManor House Concepts.

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