Nuwara Eliya is known as “Little England”. It’s near here that tea was first grown in Sri Lanka and the early tea barons not only left a legacy of very English-looking buildings, but also introduced English vegetables and flowers. The hotel we stayed at for a couple of nights was a converted tea factory. We slept in the part of the factory that was used for “withering” – the first step in the manufacturing process (the drying of the tea leaves).
The various steps in the tea manufacturing process were explained to us in (unfortunately) broken English by our hostess for the visit (every sentence was punctuated by “sir” or “madam” and some of the finer points were lost on us).
We expected that the visit would end with a sampling of their products, but no – we were dressed in sarongs or saris, given a basket with a head strap and ushered down to some tea plants, where we were encouraged to pick the appropriate leaves and then transfer them overhead and into the basket.
Our strike rate was not good. Jenny took some potentially embarrassing photos of the group’s pathetic attempts to carry out a task that the real tea pluckers make look so easy. So we now have a new-found admiration for those little ladies who do this every day for a wage of $5 (US) – though they are given free housing.