The title of this post is seemingly redolent of a Lord of the Rings trilogy? This is purely intentional. If there was any semblance of tea in the LOTR trilogy, Sri Lanka’s hill country would be the undisputed filming location. LOTR aside, back to where we left off previously.
“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”
Through her vast contacts, Shnani (The owner of Villa 49) arranged our next leg of the journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya. Our driver promptly arrived at 7am in a modern Toyota sedan. Travellers returning from their Sri Lankan holidays often sing praises of Sri Lankan Hospitality. We experienced this first-hand when Shnani packed our breakfasts into takeaway boxes without us even requesting. It was a brilliant parting gesture on her part.
Our end destination was the hill town of Nuwara Eliya. The 4 hour drive largely involves steep uphill driving around hairpin bends. A stroke of misfortune or lack of experience will send you tumbling down into the deep valley below. This is not a drive for the faint-hearted! If any of you are considering driving in Sri Lanka, it’s high time you dispel any such ideas unless you intend to court death.
The route to Nuwara Eliya takes you through Hill Country. Blessed with geographical wonders and verdant tea fields dominating the landscape, you’d be foolish to pass up this opportunity to explore.
My Dad and I did just that, making a few pitstops along the way. Besides the opportunity to explore, pitsops also allow you to get some blood back into your legs, use the washroom, have a snack and also psychologically shorten the duration of the drive. Here are a few places we visited along the way:
1) Bluefields Tea Garden
Conveniently located off the main highway – well positioned signages mark a slip off road which leads into the property. True to its name, you’ll be welcomed by a complex of buildings decked fully in cobalt blue. This Sri Lankan Muslim family-run plantation has been in business for the past few decades. The plantation comprises of a cafe, factory and of course the tea fields.
Bluefield’s offers a free guided tour of the factory in a multitude of languages. English speaking guides are readily available and there’s no specific time slots so a booking/reservation is not really necessary. During the tour, you’ll learn first-hand about the tea making process for the different types of tea. The tea making process at Bluefields remains largely traditional and this is reflected strongly in the end product – A cup of authentic, bold tasting tea that may come across as rough or unrefined to the unacquainted.
Visitors will be treated to a complimentary cup of tea at the end of the tour.
Pair the tea with freshly baked pastries from their in-house cafe for a sweet end to your visit. Bluefield’s also has a retail store where you can purchase their tea products and other tea-related accessories.
Bluefield Tea Gardens
Ramboda, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
2) Ramboda Valley & Falls
If you’re driving on the A5 highway from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, it’s impossible to miss Ramboda Valley. A deep lush valley with a towering waterfall as its centerpiece. The soundtrack of water crashing against rock echoes throughout the entire valley. There’s an observation centre with an open air deck overlooking the valley for visitors to take in the scenery. It’s also a scenic spot to tuck into your takeaway breakfast as well!
A5 Highway at Ramboda Pass, Ramboda, Sri Lanka
3) Mackwood’s Labookellie Tea Centre
Located on the outskirts of Nuwara Eliya Town, Macwood’s is a more convenient option if you are residing in the town centre. A British Tea Plantation dating back 170 years, Mackwood’s is a household name in the global tea industry. The complex is quintessentially British with red-brick houses, manicured gardens and paved walkways between buildings. You would be forgiven if you mistook it for an English Village!
Like other tea plantations, Mackwood’s offers free guided tours in a multitude of languages. Unlike Bluefield’s, you’ll be guided through an air-conditioned tea museum instead where you will learn about the tea-making process and how it has evolved over the years. Since it is a tea museum, you will not be able to witness the tea production process first-hand.
The tour ends at the cafe where you’ll be served a complimentary cup of tea. 170 years in the tea business has enabled Mackwood’s to create the perfect cup of tea. Tea here is refined, smooth and refreshing. Mackwood’s tea is fit for royalty – The Prince of Wales visited Labookellie in 2014 and gave his royal endorsement. With an extensive menu of teas available, you will be spoilt for choice. Similar to Bluefield’s, there is a retail outlet for you to purchase tea products and other accessories/memorabilia.
Mackwood’s Labookellie Tea Centre
A5, 20592, Sri Lanka
***TO BE CONTINUED***