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Tales From the Tea Estates of Sri Lanka – Memoirs of a Tea Planter

Tales From the Tea Estates of Sri Lanka – Memoirs of a Tea Planter

Priyal woke up to a bright day. The incessant monsoon rains had been steadily pouring overnight and the morning was clear and crisp. He looked out as always through the bedroom window to scan over the two thousand acres of tea plantation that grew just a hundred feet away from his house and swept over the hills and dales like a well-manicured lawn that disappeared into the blue horizon. This sight never failed to instill a sense of awe at nature’s beauty and bounty.

On the distant hill-scape he could see the tea pluckers with their baskets draped behind them going about their daily chores of picking the teas from the designated areas. These tea pluckers, mostly women, were some of the most efficient human machines as they filled their baskets up with the bud and two leaves using just their fingers as they nimbly and effortlessly moved their hands over the tea bushes like a maestro playing upon a vast green grand piano!

Priyal felt a sense of pride and achievement as he was the Chief Superintendent of the estate and responsible for all operations from the plucking to the final processing and shipment of the tea leaves from the factory. He had been trained and mentored to do this since he finished high school from the age of nineteen.

He stretched out lazily and drew the curtains further which brought to sight the beautiful and splendid stone and brick bungalow with its tall stone fireplace chimneys perched atop a hill about 300 feet above his house which was the highest point in the estate. This bungalow stood out like an apparition from another time and era and aptly named ” Eagles Nest”. Leading up to this bungalow were neatly trimmed and beautifully landscaped tropical gardens that glistened in the morning dew and beckoned everyone to visit its charming ambiance.

The British planters who built this bungalow in the late 19th. century had always reserved this place for the Chief Superintendent of the estate and had furnished it and fitted it out with fine pieces of interior decor brought in from far corners of the colonial British Empire. From the granite paved porch to the terracotta verandah leading to the fine polished hardwood flooring in the great room, this work of architecture with its panoramic views of the distant hills and rolling valleys below was absolute serendipity!

A familiar wave of mixed emotions and feelings began to sweep over Priyal who believed that this prized bungalow should have been his home as long as he was chief superintendent or the “Peria Dorai” literally translated as the “big boss” as the other estate employees use to call him. Just before Priyal was given a promotion and transferred to this estate, the company management had decided to turn “Eagles Nest ” into a tourist resort of sorts where foreign travelers paid handsome amounts in foreign currency to enjoy the old colonial grandeur and feast their eyes on sights that only nature could deliver. The “travel package’ included a tour of the factory and a day out with the tea pluckers. A rather potent mix of grass roots tea experience and luxury living combo!

As always he quickly swept away these disruptive thoughts as he went into the kitchen to brew himself a fine cup of tea from a special blend that he had personally developed by blending different grades of tea from various stages of production that produced a rich deep liquor with an excellent full bodied flavor. The perfect cup! No sooner the tea leaves began steeping and giving out its rich aroma, Priyal felt a sense of calm and contentment with his ‘karma’ and soon began to look forward to more positive events.

What a great beverage tea is, he thought to himself as he sipped from the deep rich nectar that seemed to fill up his senses, awaken his day and bring the promise of a brighter tomorrow!