’There’s no greater joy than the endlessly changing horizon!’
Finding good teas is always an exciting challenge. Finding the perfect one among old Chinese friends’ samples, discovering special producers of new regions or countries takes dedication. Main characteristics of high quality teas are: sourced from high mountains, old trees, organic plantation, handpicked and hand produced. Beside these factors attention of the producer makes the biggest difference. We tasted several samples where the tea met all these criteria but something was missing. Last step of select a new tea to the assortment to make sure the final price will be reasonable in Hungarian tea community. Keeping all these challenges in mind I decided to combine our backpacker trip to Asia with teahunting to broaden Zhao Zhou’s tea variety. I’m Tibor, my teahunter story began in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is an island country south from India with size like 2/3 of Hungary. In spite of its small territory, it has shallow coastal areas, grasslands, high mountains ranges and highlands. The history of tea production started at the time of British colonization. By the mid-19th century coffee plantations died from an infectious plant disease. A new plant was necessary to replace coffee the main export product of the country, when they discovered tea loves Sri Lankan climate in the high mountains. Thanks to Brit investment more than 200.000 ha tea plantation was founded, which made Sri Lanka to one of the biggest tea producers of the world. Nowadays approx. 5% of the population work in the tea industry, where workers receive a really low wage despite high quotas and hard work. The result of this huge industrial production is the well-known filtered CTC teas (crush, tear, curl) available all around the world.
When I read about the Sri Lankan tea history they didn’t mentioned any handcrafted, quality product. I was like shocked. However after a few days of research the glow of the pale hope appeared.
Amba Tea Estate
Our tuktuk ride from the misty Ella town led to the first sustainable tea plantation of the country. We reached the valley of Ambadandegama after a 40-minute ride on bumpy roads and serpentines, through subtropical jungles. The 50-hectare plantation run between 1890 and 1970. It was deserted for the next thirty years when a group of international business man bought the land to establish sustainable tea plantation supporting local communities. They have organic production, handpicked harvest and they have some handcrafted tea. The high mountain climate of Sri Lanka makes it possible to harvest throughout the year, in every twelve weeks. They shelter the plantation with Fabaceae trees which can absorb the nitrogen of the air to the soil. To keep the optimal height periodically they hard prune the parcels, after they keep 6 months resting period. The business model of Amba unique in Sri Lanka as the workers salary is three times higher than the average wage of the country and they also receive 10% of net income. Further specialty of Amba’s model that one worker does the whole process of a given tea from harvest to the end of manufacturing. This place of calmness gave us two amazing days; we walked among the plantations, admired the rainbows from misty peeks, spent dinner with nice people and tasted exciting teas. I found my first teahunting truly joyful so I’ll try to keep discovering in the next years.
We received the samples early last year and selected two handcrafted teas and one tisane to the assortment.
– Slow-Withered Old bush Green
Green tea from old bushes, it has deepness which we know from puers instead of the floweriness which we expect from greens. Tastes like nuts with a bit of smell like squash.
This black tea is also from old bushes. Ripe-tomato like taste, sweet potato, essential oils and it goes down with bitterness of tonic. In the chi we found smoothness with a sharp feeling. Always use 90 degrees when brewing for perfect experience.
The smell reminds us of the peel of citruses, airiness and perfumes. There’s an exciting twist of rhubarb in the aftertaste.
Taste and get to know these remarkable teas
For more details on our Ceylon teas and ordering options please follow the links below.