Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tea Country

We had a late breakfast this morning, not eating until 8am.  It was a beautiful scene though; sitting at the table on the terrace I could look out over the lawns and the flower beds to the mountain vista just beyond the garden, all partially lit by the morning sun.  Breakfast was all cooked to order and was pretty much whatever we wanted; the fruit plate looked like an architectural concept model the way the slices were stacked together.  There was toast and pastries with lovely jam and marmalade and even marmite for those who wanted it.  The cooked breakfast was equally scrummy and all was accompanied by a delicious selection of teas.

After breakfast Andrew Taylor, a relative of James Taylor who founded the tea industry in Sri Lanka back in the 1850’s, came by to conduct us around the Norwood Tea Factory.  It was an interesting tour, looking at the bud of the tea plant and the top two leaves which are really all they want to make tea, he showed us some bushes which are over a hundred years old and still being harvested today.

While there is a lot of machinery involved in the processing, it’s really a very simple process; nothing is added to the shoots after they are picked.  In essence they are just dried, chopped, filtered to remove the extraneous vegetable fibre and then packed and sold.

We were offered the opportunity to do some tea tasting after the tour.  I was feeling quite rough still and was just grateful to be able to sit down, so I declined, but Chris and Ping had a go and it was interesting to hear the process described; it’s a lot like tasting wine and knowing how the different aspects and flavours manifest  in the mouth.

We also spoke about the workforce; it averages one  person per acre of tea grown and the plantation, which is government-owned but privately run, provides cradle-to-grave support for the ethnic Tamils who make up the pluckers and factory workers.  This includes health care and education.  Only about five percent of those born on the plantations go elsewhere for work, the rest presumably stay to pick up where their parents leave off.

It’s a system that works for the tea production but we nevertheless wondered about the fulfilment of the workforce.  The question came up a couple of times later on but we didn’t come to a satisfactory conclusion.

After lunch on the terrace, we spent the afternoon each doing our own thing.  I blogged a while and uploaded postcards to Facebook and then read some.  Brett, Mark & Ping swam I think.  We reconvened for afternoon tea and explored their tea menu some more.  Before dinner we played various parlour games and ended up doing our own version of Taboo (where one person has to describe a word or phrase without using any of the listed taboo words.)

We had dinner in the dining room again, but by candlelight tonight as the electricity gets a bit uncertain during the rain and we thought it added atmosphere.  After dinner we stayed at the table for a second round of Taboo.  Lots of teasing between Mark and Chris about who was the better/worse loser.  It’s hard to tell which of them is the more competitive…

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