Sri Lanka, the land of Ceylon tea, is a country where the culture of  small communities is still vibrant. Tea planting was introduced to the country between 1815 and 1948 when the country was one of the British Crown colonies. Nowadays, it is one of the leading tea producers in the world.

Much of the tea plantations established by the British are still thriving and popular tourist attractions. After 32, years of civil war, the country is now peaceful and people are rebuilding their lives.

The tea industry in Ceylon involves local communities and their environment. Sri Lanka tea production is one of the main sources of foreign revenue, which generates close to $700 million annually to their economy. There are over a million people involved in this industry directly or indirectly. The manager of the tea estate, where I stayed during the trip, said that a good thing that the British left for Sri Lanka is the tea industry. So, thanks to the British planters who arrived in Sri Lanka in 1852 and to James Taylor who started the tea business in 1867. This is when the tea plantation flourished, creating communities living in the tea estate.

A visit to the tea plantations in the upper area of Sri Lanka showed me that tea farmers today still work in a community with their skills and ways of life passed on from one generation to the next. Like the old days, the estates still provide housing, land, medical services and employment to the people working the land. Driving around Peacock Estate, one can hear the Estate manager talking about how some children are now working at the various jobs in the Estate. They know each other by first names and recognize the families they belong to. It’s like a big community business.

Tea Plantation, Sri Lanka

The Ceylonese tea pluckers have a unique skill. They learn the art of plucking tea leaves from the previous generations. Not everyone can pluck tea leaves and those who cannot master the skill do other works on the land or in the tea factory. Good pluckers can yield the best crops that bear the best flavor.

The humidity, cool temperatures, and rainfall in the country’s central highlands provide a climate that favors the production of high quality tea. The visual affect of rolling mountains and hills of tea plants are stunning and mesmerizing. During the day, the land is colorfully dotted with the pluckers working on the fields. In a good tea estate, the land is kept clean and orderly. In a large estate, you can find temples and churches on ground. During my visit, which coincided with a Hindu Festival, there was a buzz in the air and workers were busy with the upcoming celebration. The majority of the people are Buddhist (70%) with Hindus, Muslims and Christians making up the minorities. Together they live and work together in the plantations.

Being a Thai national, a visit to Sri Lanka must include a stop in Kandy, a major tourist city located in the Central Province. It is known among Buddhists as it is home of the Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), one of the most sacred places of worship for Buddhists around the world. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. At the temple, you can see worshipers lining up to pay respect to the Tooth Relic of the Lord Buddha. The biggest crowds are mothers and their infants. The mothers symbolically offer their infants to the lord Buddha so that they become children of the lord Buddha and are protected from danger. Flowers are also an integral part of an offering. Both simple and beautiful, they are made up of purple and fuchsia colored lotus and jasmines. People also offer a bowl of rice to the lord Buddha. The Temple of the Tooth Relic is located between a Thai temple and a Tibetan Buddhist temple. It looks very beautiful and understated.

 

It is believed that Sri Lanka Buddhists are one of the most religious people in the world and from the days spent in the country, this is so true. There are many places of worship in the town. People take their worshiping ceremonies seriously and personally. It’s less commercial act but rather an inner state of being. You can feel a sense of calmness and gentleness of the people in their ways of life. It is not what one would expect from a country that just came out of 32 years of civil war.

When the communities are together and beliefs are upheld, people can work together and build the future together. This nation is a hidden gem!