Originally published on Traveller.com.au.
How to drink tea in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka's serene highlands offer a tea experience steeped in tradition, says the co-founder of Eloments Organic Vitamin Teas. Julie Hirsch is a frequent visitor to Sri Lanka, where she sources tea and spices for the range, eloments.com.
Sri Lanka is famous for its Ceylon tea, and 7 million kilograms of this bold, black tea are sold every week at the renowned Colombo Tea Auction, which can be visited on tours. My favourite spot for a cuppa is on The Verandah at the Galle Face Hotel, which overlooks the Indian Ocean and is the perfect place to try your tea like a local: well brewed with milk and sugar.
Take the train to the gardens. Dotting the impossibly green highlands around Kandy, Sri Lanka's smaller tea gardens offer a peaceful break from bustling Colombo. I suggest travelling to Kandy by train to avoid the trucks, tuk tuks and elephants on the road, and to give yourself time to enjoy the scenic ride through the waist-high tea bushes that cover the hillsides.
Learn the lingo. Enjoying tea is the most important part of the experience, but knowing your lingo can help you sound like a professional. For example, tea is plucked, whereas coffee is picked. You may hear your host mention "BOP" (broken orange pekoe) – the broken pieces of dried leaf that are often used for teabags (if you prefer a strong cuppa this will be your go-to).
If someone asks you to do a "cupping" while in Sri Lanka, they are not making an improper suggestion. A cupping is a formal tea or coffee tasting – if you enjoy wine tasting, this is a non-alcoholic alternative. You can visit the famous Handunugoda Tea Estate to learn about the different flavours and aromas that Ceylon teas have on offer, such as earthy, vegetal, floral, fruity, spicy or nutty, hermanteas.com.
Discover Fairtrade tea. After every trip, I'm humbled by the positive impact a cup of tea can have. There are more than 15,000 farmers and workers under the Fairtrade banner in Sri Lanka, which enables a liveable income, investment in communities and sustainable farming, while a further 200,000 workers aren't protected by these rigorous standards. Look for the Fairtrade Certification on the next pack of tea you purchase to continue your impact well after your trip has concluded, fairtrade.com.au.
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