The next morning I awoke early as I wanted to film a ‘day in the life’ at the Galaboda Tea Factory. It started with the arrival of the workers. Those that lived on the estate walked to the assembly area while those that lived off estate were brought to Galaboda by truck. Once all the workers were present a roll call was made by the Field Officer, Mr. Pateran. He was an enthusiastic chap with a long history in tea. Dressed in shorts, smart shoes, spiffy shirt and a brolly for the sun and rain he doled out the days work details. The structure of the event reminded me of my army days and I could immediately see the organizational side of the business kicking in. The workers were a chatty bunch and there was a distinct social side to the days doings.
My next stop was back in tea country. When I’d originally sent out my query letters the first reply I'd received back was from Dr Sanjeewa De Silva. The good doctor owned and operated a tea factory in the low country about an hours drive from Galle on the south coast. His story, and the story of the Galaboda Tea Factory and Tsara Teas was an interesting one and one that I wanted to cover as it involved generational transitions.
Galle is a living time capsule. When I started putting my 'must visit hit list' together Galle was at the top from day one. I love history and I love architecture, especially old architecture that defines epochs. Originally founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century and expanded upon by the Dutch, Fort Galle was declared a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site in 1988 as the best European built example of a fortified city built in south and south east Asia. It was also noted for its blend of European and Asian architectural styles. That's one of the official reasons for Galle being a must see, usually if UNESCO has inscribed a site you know it's worth a visit, but UNESCO aside, being x-military I have an affinity for old military installations...so a sojourn in Galle was a given.
My last day with Dilmah turned out to be much more relaxing than the previous six. I had seen black tea at the Dunkeld Estate, green tea at the Park Estate, witnessed their conservation project at the Elephant Transit Home, and many of their Small Entrepreneur Programs during the last couple of days. Today there was only one stop on the itinerary, and that was the Rilhena Tea Estate.
I arose early the next morning to catch the fisherman launching their boats and mending their nets. It was a glorious day, glorious, and after a hearty breakfast we set off to visit more of Dilmah's initiatives. First up was the Gemi Aruna Agro Production Society where the society's president, a man by the name of Samantha Rajapaksha, met us to show us around.
The Subhagya School for Differently Abled Children is another Dilmah initiative. The core thinking behind the program is to help differently abled children lead a normal life. There have been long standing stigmas attached to many of those deemed different in many societies, but thankfully today there are those that work to reverse those stigmas. Those that believe we should all be treated as equals, regardless of physical or mental differences.
If yesterday had been a glimpse into Dilmah’s commitment to Wildlife Conservation today was all about a different kind of commitment, one to the less fortunate. Through their MJF Charitable Foundation, named after Dilmah's founding father, Merrill J. Fernando, they have created a program to kick-start creative people with a desire to take their businesses to the next level, or create new ones. The program is called SEP, or Small Entrepreneur Program. Our driver took us to meet Shantha Devapriya, the project officer and ‘man on the ground’ who was going to show us around over the next couple of days.
I have a soft spot for elephants, especially baby elephants. There's something about the way they move and look you in the eye. There seems to be a given trust from the onset. How many animals, especially of an elephants size, tender that. Not many. Our first stop of the day was at the Elephant Transit Home, or ETH. The ETH is a place where orphaned elephants from around Sri Lanka are brought to live until they are roughly four or five years old, an appropriate age to be released back to the wild.
I was up early to grab some local footage, after all we were in Nuwara Elya, the heart of Sri Lankan tea country. Of course I shot the grounds at the Grand Hotel, their beauty couldn't be ignored, but I also wandered down the road to the round-a-bout where tuk tuks jockeyed for position and a beautiful Stupa caught the early morning sun. It was going to be a beautiful day.
So my education on tea was about to begin, and what better place than the Dilmah 'School of Tea' to start the ball rolling? For my tea documentary I was very fortunate that Dilmah Tea, a powerhouse in Sri Lankan tea, were receptive to my idea and had arranged a spot for me at their ‘School of Tea.’ I was very excited to be a part of this Dilmah experience as the Fernando family, the owners of Dilmah, have a very interesting story.
I arrived tired but excited in Negombo after 36 hours of flight hopping. Customs and immigration was a breeze and a driver at the airport took me to the Jetwing Sea at Negombo Beach for 1,500 Rupees, around 15$ Canadian. Arriving at 5:30am I was a little punch drunk but too excited to go to bed, instead I wandered the beautiful hotel property to get my bearings and couldn’t resist a swim before breakfast.
The preparations for my trip to Sri Lanka are coming along nicely. It was my intention to spend time at three tea estates on the island during my visit. One each at the 'Low,' 'Mid,' and 'High' countries. It is with great pleasure that I can announce the first tea estate to offer their assistance, and that would be Galaboda Organic Tea Factory. Galaboda, or Tsara Green Teas, is a family run affair spanning three generations over 75 years. I look forward to spending time with them and learning all about what goes into a good 'cuppa.' Below is a beautiful short video of what they do at Galaboda.
Thank you Nalin.
A lovely introduction to Tsara Green Teas
Well folks, I've decided to carry the momentum from the Bolivia trip through to Sri Lanka. With the B&B busy from May through September I needed to pull the trigger sooner rather than later so so here I am. Tea on Two Wheels will be a one hour documentary and an adventure travel motorcycle book by the same name. It will take in the whole island and I'll be using tea as a backdrop, or through-line.