So, the good doctor had shared the Galaboda tea fields with me, he'd shared the Galaboda black tea factory with me and he'd shared the new Tsara green tea factory with me, now it was time to visit the Tea Boutique.
Housed in a new purpose built building at the head of the drive the Tea Boutique sat on the location of the old Manager’s Bungalow site. Traditions lie deep in the Sri Lankan tea industry and Manager’s Bungalows were always present and usually located in prime spots but this time the spot had been repurposed.
Inside the Boutique I found the staff waiting for me, they were going to take me through a tea tasting session, one that is available to anyone that wanders in off the main road a short distance away. It really is a worthwhile excursion visiting an estates public areas. At Galaboda the Boutique is the last part of the tour as guests are first taken into the hills to take a gander at tea bushes up close, then they might get a quick boo inside the factory itself and in the end they’ll usually savour a cuppa in the shop or boutique if the estate has one.
Galaboda was no different but as I had already seen the tea bushes and factory floor yesterday today I was going to have a closer look at the boutique itself. Tea from Sri Lanka is still largely referred to as Ceylon Tea, even though Ceylon, the British Colonial name for the island country, became Sri Lanka back in 1972. Successful brands are usually the result of hard work, an identifiable logo or word, and a duration of time over which the brand has developed. Usually when a country changes its name it would have little bearing on brands within that country, but when the name of the country is featured in the brand then things can get a little complicated. Tea drinkers around the world have enjoyed Ceylon Tea for over a century so the Ceylon Tea brand has become a very powerful moniker and even though the country sports a new name the tea industry stuck with the Ceylon branding as it made good business sense. There are no doubt tea drinkers out there that don’t understand that Ceylon tea comes from Sri Lanka, and they probably don't care, all that matters to them is that they can still ‘get’ their Ceylon Tea. Never mess with a successful brand.
As I entered the Tea Boutique the first thing I noticed was a display with numerous teas visible and the Ceylon quality logo purposely displayed front and centre which made sense, after all this was a place where excellent tea was sought out, tasted and bought. The display of teas had a structure to it, jars of tea were lined up like soldiers on the parade ground with the nearest row covering organic green teas while the row behind covered black teas and off behind the display in another area was a third row of flavoured teas. Tasting tea is like tasting wine, there is an order to the affair as taste buds can’t be reset after each taste. A strong Orange Pekoe off the top will drown out the delicate taste of a fine organic green if drunk before, so an order of consumption must be adhered to to truly appreciate the different nuances at play.
I must say I really enjoyed the experience. It's one thing to go down to your local store and throw a box of tea in your basket, it’s quite another to actually see tea leaves plucked in the hot sun, walk the factory floor, and taste tea produced onsite while someone explains to you what you’re experiencing.
I loved my visit to the Galaboda Tea Estate and Boutique and would highly recommend it to any visitors in the area, even those that don't drink tea, as to visit Galaboda is to immerse yourself in a very interesting aspect of Sri Lankan culture. Many thanks to the good doctor and the staff on the estate that made my stay so enjoyable. Thanks!