One of the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka is its famous tea plantations; acres and acres of lush emerald peaks situated in Hill Country, where the views are breathtaking, and the climate is refreshingly cool. In this article, learn more about tea country Sri Lanka, including which tea plantations are best to visit during your travels.
The history of tea in Sri Lanka
Back in 1824, a tea plant was smuggled by the British from China to Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was formerly known). It was planted non-commercially in the Royal Botanical Gardens. Some years later, in 1867, the young Scottish-born tea planter, James Taylor, started the first tea plantation at Loolecondera in Kandy, which covered some 19 acres. In 1872, the first sale of tea was made in Kandy from a tea factory built at Loolecondera.
James Taylor worked with Thomas Lipton to develop the tea industry in Sri Lanka. Today, there are more than 188K hectares of tea plants spanning Sri Lanka’s Hill Country with Sri Lanka currently ranking as the 4th largest producer of tea in the world.
Tea plantation Sri Lanka
Tea production and its associated exportation now form one of Sri Lanka’s leading economic sectors with more than 1 million Sri Lankan people employed directly or indirectly in the tea industry in total.
Three main tea varieties are produced in Sri Lanka: Ceylon black, Ceylon green, and Ceylon white tea, also called “Silver Tip” (the latter being an exclusive and expensive tea, made with only the buds from tea plants).
The tea in Sri Lanka is grown at different heights from sea level in three categories as outlined below:
- Low-grown teas (grown at an elevation of up to 2,000 feet).
- Medium-grown teas (grown at between 2,000 and 4,000 feet).
- High-grown teas (grown at between 4,000 and 6,000 feet).
Generally, the higher-grown the tea is, the finer the quality regarding taste, flavour, and aroma.
Which tea plantations should you visit?
Nuwara Eliya tea plantation
With their verdant rolling hills, the Nuwara Eliya tea plantations in the Central Province are some of the most famous and picturesque in Sri Lanka. The Nuwara Eliya tea estates are situated at a high level in the hill region, meaning that the tea grown here is of exceptional quality.
At Nuwara Eliya, you can take a tour around the tea plantations (some noteworthy ones to visit are Mackwoods and Pedro tea estates), pluck some tea leaves of your own, watch the locals at work and visit tea factories to find out more about the process of making tea.
Ella tea plantation
Ella is full of leafy green tea plantations where you can see and speak to the local tea pluckers and learn how the tea leaves and buds are picked. One of the best tea factories to visit is Uva Halpewatte, the largest tea factory in the Uva province, which contains state of the art machinery.
If you enjoy hiking, you can visit Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak, two major tourist attractions, while passing through the tea plantations in Ella.
Kandy tea plantation
If you’re interested in the history of tea, the Kandy tea estates are a must-see! Kandy is considered the birthplace of Ceylon tea, as it was first introduced here all those years ago in 1867.
It’s possible to visit the Loolecondera tea factory, see the remains of James Taylor’s former log cabin and even sit in James Taylor’s seat, made from rock, to enjoy stupendous views of the surrounding mountain ranges.
Tea estate Sri Lanka
Why not add Sri Lanka’s tea estates to your itinerary if you’re travelling around this country? Not only will you learn about the fascinating history of tea and how it’s made from start to finish, but you’ll also get to see the most mesmerising and scenic parts of the island too.
You can visit a tea factory in Kandy and explore Nuwara Eliya during our “Splendours of Sri Lanka” escorted tour.