Taking a leaf from Ceylon

Tea has shaped both the land and economy of Sri Lanka since the mid-19th century, and the tradition continues today. By Cheah Ui-hoon

Published Fri, Nov 29, 2013 · 10:00 PM
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THE morning starts early at Nuwara Eliya, the highlands of central Sri Lanka. Just after 5am, the horizon of misty mountain is visible tones beneath the intensifying orange sky. As the sun rises, the landscape sharpens in detail: sloping hills neatly divided into green rectangles, evenly terraced to the top; single storey houses painted in bright red, blue or green and yellow, planted at the base of the hills.

In another couple of hours, women - with long cloths draped from their heads down their backs - would be dotting the terraced hills to handpick the first flush of tea leaves, following a tradition started over a century ago.

Nuwara Eliya, which used to be called Little England, is where the country's highest elevation tea plantations are and where much of the landscape and the rhythm of life has been unchanged since the time a Scot, James Taylor, introduced commercial tea planting in 1867.

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