Thursday, May 12, 2011

Love Letter to Anyone with a Passion for Tea

Where have you enjoyed a perfect cup of tea?

For Robin Esrock one of the best was at Ceylon Tea Trails, in Sri Lanka, a luxury bungalow resort originally built for the tea barons who ruled over the estates. "Owned and operated by Dilmah, one of the world's largest tea brands, Ceylon Tea Trails is a love letter to anyone with a passion for tea, tranquillity, hospitality and the region itself."

"I've never enjoyed a fresher cup of tea than the one waiting for me on the patio. It tastes like fine Bordeaux after years of quaffing box wine. As I sip, the early-morning sun sparkles on the evergreen tea terraces that look like surreal layers painted onto the hills. “What are those yellow and blue specks moving around up there?” I ask my butler. (I've never had a butler before, and I think it rather suits me.) “Those are the tea pluckers, sir.” My education in tea is about to begin."

Included in his education is that the tea is plucked always with two leaves and a bud. Left alone, these plants would grow to more than seven meters tall.

"The estate's army of pluckers consists of short, skinny ladies wrapped in colourful saris, each with a long basket strapped around her forehead, hanging down her back. The women are paid according to weight, so with lightning fingers they pluck as much as 16 kilograms of tea leaves a day. I ask one lady if I can give it a try, which solicits a cackle of laughs. The basket is heavy, already straining my neck, even though it's relatively empty. I clumsily pluck away for a half-hour, before deciding that it's work best left to wispy women with necks of steel."

Since its inception, Dilmah has prided itself on being an ethical tea company. Through its charitable foundation, the company "supports 1,500 community projects, including child care, geriatric services, arts programs, counselling, even prisoner rehabilitation. The company also provides free housing, education and medical services to estate workers."

See a short video of Esrock's memorable tea education and visit here.