Sri Lanka, Black Tea and Me… Part 5

After a nice break at Mackwoods it was time for some serious tea exploration. Now Mackwoods is a great place to visit if you are curious about tea in general because they do tours around the factory and plantation. But if you have more specific questions, like somebody who is a student of the Art of Tea then you can’t go wrong with our next destination: Lovers Leap Tea Factory.

Lovers Leap in Nuwara Eliya is one of the highest elevation tea plantations in Sri Lanka. It boasts the proud title of once being owned by Mr James Taylor, the pioneer who started tea industry in Sri Lanka in 1886.

There we learned that the factory is certified under the United Nations charter for ethically environmentally sustainable practices. What that means is that they provide housing, schooling and tea to their workers while at the same time ensuring that the way they cultivate tea does not harm the environment. For example, instead of using artificial fertiliser, they recycle unsellable dust and fanning as organic mulch along with the dead leaves. Pesticides aren’t used. So it means when we enter the factory we have to wash our shoes at the entrance and wear aprons, hats and gloves in sensitive areas.

Now you may be asking: Is the factory/plantation Fairtrade? The answer is no. Or are they organic? Again the answer is no. While I shouldn’t play politics when it comes to tea, the simple cold hard truth is that Fairtrade is a bit of a sham that increases the cost of your tea. And being certified organic is a very expensive exercise that is starting to rival kosher and Halal food. So you may be asking how can I say such things? But the truth is, most plantations (small or large) have for the last 15 years or more gone back to natural forms of farming for reasons that would impress anybody. None of the money you spend on getting Fairtrade or organic goes to the plantations (or workers as so often is believed). In fact the factories have to pay to get the certifications. Money that could have been spent on improving the plantations or the workers’ lives.

So here we are at Lovers Leap learning how to do tea tasting the factory way. It is very similar to how we do it when we receive samples only these guys do it everyday. Every single production run/batch gets tasted for consistant standard quality in whatever type of tea they are producing. It is truly an artform.

And what did we do after tasting a dozen different types/grades of tea produced at Lovers Leap?

We had tea! Yay!