Haputale, Sri Lanka
January 20, 2015 – January 21, 2015
After climbing Adam’s Peak we took the train east to the small city of Haputale and the great tea plantation which belonged to Sir Lipton himself. One of the most common teas available anywhere in the world, Lipton tea, is grown primarily here around Haputale, Sri Lanka.
Haputale is a small town situated around the train station along the train line running east to west through the center of the country. The line was built long ago by the British to take Sir Thomas Lipton’s tea from the highland plantations of Sri Lanka to the ports such as Colombo and subsequently to England where the British had an unquenchable thirst for the stuff. In fact nearly every train line in the country was built by the British for the purpose of moving the much sought after and highly profitable tea to the nearest port.
We stayed at Awinco Rest Home, which was one of our favorite guest houses in Sri Lanka. Situated just a short walk out of town it offers great views of the plantation filled valleys around Haputale.
Lipton’s Seat and Tea Plantation
The next morning we took an early morning tuk-tuk for a 45 minute long ride out of Haputale and through the Dambatenne Tea Plantation, built by Sir Lipton in 1890. This massive plantation covers a range of hills and valleys and encapsulates its own workers villages, schools and bus stops as well as multiple factories to process the massive amounts of tea being shipped to every corner of the world. Near the center on one of the highest peaks is Lipton’s Seat. A viewpoint once used by Sir Lipton to entertain his guests and where he used to take in the sight of his extensive plantation. It is now a popular viewpoint. The easiest and one of the cheapest ways to get there is to simply take a tuk-tuk to the top and then walk back downhill through the miles of road wandering through the plantation to the Dambatenne tea factory where you can find a bus to take you back to Haputale. It is advised to go early as clouds and haze often roll in obscuring the view.
Next to the viewpoint you can find Lipton’s Tea Shop, where you can enjoy a cup with a view. We both agree Lipton tea, fresh from the plantation, tastes quite a bit different and sight better than the packaged tea found in the grocery stores around the world.
After taking in the views from the top we started our long walk downhill through the beautiful countryside and watched life on a tea plantation unfold around us.
We watched tea pickers working their way steadily through daily rotating sections of the plantation. Tea is made by first picking the new growth leaves or buds. This also effectively prunes the bushes constantly keeping them the same size for the life of the plant. After the tea leaves are picked they are collected together and dried and allowed to ferment a little before they are crushed and dried again. Then the final dried pieces are sorted, graded and the raw tea packaged in bulk and shipped overseas for final local packaging and possible added flavorings and ultimately shipped to nearly every country in the world.
You can easily spend the rest of the day walking back to town from the top and still only see a small portion of the massive tea plantation. As we walked down we were treated to amazing views as well as daily life on and around the tea plantation. Because the plantations are so massive whole villages of workers are scattered about with their own schools and shops. The village was big enough to have its own buses which shuttle locals and visitors back and forth from the middle of the plantation to the nearby town of Haputale.
Of course we stopped at the main tea factory for a tour and detailed explanation of the entire tea making process. Interestingly workers in the factory walk around barefoot, working with tea piled and drying on the floor.
In our opinion Haputale and Lipton’s tea plantation as well as Lipton’s Seat viewpoint are a must see if you are visiting the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Next we were off to visit Sigiriya, one of Sri Lanka’s ancient cities and most important archeological ruins.