Walk around tea-blanketed hills with Ceylon Tea Trails’ resident tea planter
One of the best ways to experience the tiny teardrop-shaped island off India’s southern tip is through the magic of tea. Ever since British tea planter James Taylor sowed 19 acres of tea at Loolecondera Estate in the central Ceylon tea hills in 1866, establishing the Ceylon tea industry, the island has been known for quality, brisk and bold black teas. Venture into a tea circuit that takes you from the capital into the hills, and then to the gorgeous south before heading back.
“Though enjoyed from medicinal and spiritual purposes in its native China and other parts of Asia, tea in Sri Lanka is a colonial-era influenced social gathering, served with milk and a local unrefined coconut sugar called jaggery,” says Sarah Scarborough, founder of Firepot Nomadic Teas and author of Nomadic Tea Party.
“Long before tea came to the island, however, the Sinalese (the original Sri Lankan descendants from southern India) used their island’s rich herbal diversity to create their own natural system of medicine called Ayurveda,” adds Scarborough. “Developing infusions, powders and poultices from potent native herbs since 400 BC, the island’s botanical legacy is rooted in ancient times.”
Colombo has emerged as a new port destination, particularly with the 2017 opening of a Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts property. Located between the Galle Face Green promenade and Beira Lake, the property has gorgeous uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean and world-class dining options. But the capital is also home to the country’s contemporary dining scene with new hot restaurants opening monthly. It’s a gorgeous city with beautiful colonial-style buildings. But to get a real feel of the country, head to the Sri Lankan countryside.
You can either hire a driver to take you inland to the cultural centre of the country Kandy, or hop on a quick Cinnamon Air floatplane to Kandy Reservoir. You land and the greenery is what strikes you at first, lush remote lands the way the world used to be. The Ayurvedic spice gardens are aplenty in this area which is also home to the island’s first tea garden. While here, pick up ashwagandha for peaceful sleep, vitality and to relieve stress or jet lag, Ceylon cinnamon oil leg rub to soothe sore muscles or Neelyadi Thailaya for headaches and healthy hair, suggests Scarborough.
An hour south of the Kandy Reservoir, the hotel is named after tea hero James Taylor. This tiny boutique hotel built on a tea plantation sits adjacent to Loolecondera Estate is Sri Lanka’s original tea garden. Forget the world and just enjoy afternoon tea (and champagne if you’re so inclined) amongst the greenery. Opting for early morning yoga at the pool as the mists rise over the valleys and the sprawling hills is how I believe every morning should start. Follow your yoga session with an in-room massage with oils infused with teas from the plantation.