Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka stands as the world’s fourth largest producer of tea. The tea drinking culture within this island country is strong, with Sri Lankans drinking on average three cups per day. In an attempt to compete with China‘s tea production, the British introduced tea plantations to Sri Lanka in 1867 and since, the country has become the producer of some of the world’s finest teas, from single origins to mixed fruit blends.Tea comes in many shapes and tastes and, in the coffee-obsessed society we live in, we tea drinkers have something special too… But how is it made?
Geragama Tea Factory was built in 1903 and makes an interesting visit if you are travelling from to Kandy. Geragama Tea Estate gives you an opportunity to visit the estate’s tea plantation a little more quickly. During the tour you will be led by a personal experienced guide who will introduce you to the process of growing and harvesting, whilst providing in depth information about Sri Lankan tea culture.
There are three types of tea, divided according to elevation: low-grow tea is cultivated from sea-level up to 600m and comes mostly from the south of the island. It is known for its strong taste. Mid-grow tea is cultivated between 600m and 1200m and is often blended. High-grow tea comes from plantations located above 1200m.
Nowadays, Ceylon Tea is a significant economic asset for Sri Lanka. It yields 2% of the country’s GDP and employs over one million people. Whilst Sri Lanka is not the largest producer of tea (it comes behind China and India), it is certainly the largest exporter.
The transformation of tea leaves is a delicate and well-rehearsed process, which was initially done all by hand and is now helped by machines. Today, machines haven’t completely replaced the handmade process, as tea plants are delicate and need gentle treatment in order to ensure quality. At Geragama Tea Factory, most machines go back to the early days and the process hasn’t changed in generations.
workers, mostly women, pluck the tea leaves by hand, usually in spring and summer. Depending on weather conditions, picking can also take place in autumn and winter. For each plant, you only pick a terminal bud and two young leaves. Different types of tea (white, green, black…) come from the same plant but are processed differently.
Of course the entrance is free, plus you will be given some of the best tea for your consumption made by the workers at the premises. there will be a competition of which kind of tea suites for your taste. There is a charming tasting room where you can sample and buy tea at the end of your visit.