A 140-year old white tea plantation, spice and rubber tree farm
If you visit Sri Lanka, you will certainly be tempted to visit a tea plantation. And there is probably none more famous than Handunugoda – the legendary tea plantation that used to produce the famous “virgin” white tea for the Chinese Emperor Tsong. Only virgins harvested the tea, never touching it with their own hands, but instead using golden scissors and bowls to collect the tea leaves. The emperor lips were the first to touch the tea.
Today you can visit this tea plantation and learn a bit about tea production in Sri Lanka, ancient Ceylon. Sri Lanka is the 3rd largest tea producer in the world. And Handunugoda is one of the largest in the country and is also one of Dilmah Tea’s largest suppliers. But there is more than just tea at Handunugoda, there is also a spice farm…Sri Lanka has been producing cinnamon since the 1700’s when under Dutch rule (before they started making tea in the 1800’s). And there is also natural rubber being harvested. If you have never seen rubber being harvested, it is fascinating…you injure the tree with a knife, the tree “bleeds” and this liquid is collected, as it hardens it becomes rubber.
Probably for me, the most interesting part was seeing the tea production process – from fresh green leaves from the harvest to the dried tea leaves that tea manufacturers receive. There are 7 steps:
- the leaves are left to dry on screens for 18 hours
- a machine rolls the dried leaves for 30 minutes into curled tea leaves we know…this process can take 3x to complete
- the leaves are sifted to let the broken, odd bits fall out
- tea leaves are put on tile to ferment
- tea is put into the 150-year old dryer to dry the leaves
- Leaves are sent to the grading room to be sorted according to size / quality
- The separator removes all the brown leaves and stems leaving only high quality tea leaves
Handunugoda runs a lovely, detailed tour explaining all of the details and covering a good bit of the estate to see the various activities (complimentary). The tour starts with a visit to the main house where you can enjoy tea and cake on the verandah while the plantation history is briefly explained. Then, you can see the factory, followed by a tea tasting near the factory.
It all makes for a truly unique afternoon. Our guide, Herman, was thoroughly knowledgeable and welcoming. And much like many experiences of going directly to the source, in this case the farm, our enjoyment of tea now and in the future is enhanced by the experience.
Note: If coming from Galle the trip is about 40 minutes to Handunugoda.
Telephone: +94 77 329 0999 (Herman)