Saturday, January 28th
Experiencing the culture is what traveling is all about and we certainly did that today! We started off our morning by having a lovely breakfast of string hoppers (noodles you pour curry sauce over) and chicken curry. I had my first taste of local tea and the flavor was so nice! After breakfast we took a tuk tuk with Lal our driver about 4km to the Ceylon Tea Museum. Originally we were hesitant to take a tuk tuk that far but it actually wasn't bad and Lal was a careful driver. It took about 15-20 minutes up to the top of a hill to a gorgeous property. The museum itself is in a huge 1925 building and has the coolest light fixtures, original glass windows, and original wooden floors.
Little bit of history-
The rise of the Ceylon tea plantations over the grave of the coffee industry in 1869 followed years of experimental planting by James Taylor of Loolecondera (considered the father of the tea industry in Ceylon) first planted tea commercially in 1867, two years before the coffee blight. It was fortunate that the tea grew well as many coffee pioneers were able to turn the death of the coffee plantations into the birth of an even greater and enduring industry 'tea'.
The first tea seeds and young tea plants were brought to the island from the Botanical Gardens in Calcutta in 1839. The first shipment of tea in 1872, was only two small packs containing 23 pounds valued at 58 rupees. The country exported 280 million kilograms last year. Today, Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of tea in the world. They also conduct the largest tea auction in the world, which had been in operation since 1883.
The oldest known packet of Ceylon Tea is 56 years old and still in its original packaging.
At the end of our tour we had a nice cup of black tea.
Next Lal took us to a functioning factory called Embilmeegama Tea Factory about 15km outside of Kandy. We were shown the machines in use and could smell the fragrant leaves as they went through the grinding, drying, and fermenting process. Of course we had a cup of bop (broken orange pekoe) tea. Very good!
Headed back to The Orchard for a fabulous home cooked lunch made by Shanthi. She made potatoe curry, fried vegetable rice, pork curry, salad (cucumber, tomato, pineapple, carrot in a white sauce), grilled aubergines and onions, and pappads. Best food we've had on our travels!! We chatted with Lennie and the girls for awhile and took a few pictures before we left.
Our original plan was to take the bus back. However, Lennie, said the train would be faster and we would be able to enjoy the scenery. The tickets for the 3:30 train were 190 rupees each (less than $2) and with all the stops we arrived in Colombo around 7:30pm. Negotiated with a tuk tuk to take us to our guest house for 500 rupees. Along the way, people were having a big kite flying event at the beach. There were tons of people and booths set up. Unfortunately we were so tired that we didn't make it back to that area.
Sarah and I have been trying all the different kinds of cookies and candy throughout the places we visit. Our latest favorites is a Sri Lankan brand called Maam. They have a ton of different flavors but we're hooked on the banana cream :)
Luckily when we got to our guest house Harshini was here and we spent the evening hanging out and chatting. We have so much fun with her!