Tea Plantations

Walapane covered with many tea plantations. Majority of tea plantation in Nuwara Eliya district located in Walapane Jurisdiction. World famous authentic Udapussellawa Tea and Mathurata Plantation are key highlights. There are also many other smaller tea plantations dominating the region and pure Ceylon black tea market with unique aromatic blend.

Earlier years Walapane was the heart of Wathumulla Plantation, there was a tea factory right in the heart of Walapane town. However, due to declined production tea factory closed down and remaining of the estate aquired to Mahauva estate. There are so many tea plantations covered like a blanket top of the mountains. Scattered Tea factories decorate the tea plantation blanket. Tea produce from Walapane falls into high grown tea. They have brisk full flavours and bright golden colour. In Sri Lanka tea can be plucked throughout the year. This is an advantage naturally gifted from the geographical location.

Tea production in Sri Lanka

Tea production in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, is of high importance to the Sri Lankan economy and the world market. The country is the world’s fourth largest producer of tea and the industry is one of the country’s main sources of foreign exchange and a significant source of income for laborers, with tea accounting for 15% of the GDP, generating roughly $700 million annually. In 1995 Sri Lanka was the world’s leading exporter of tea, (rather than producer) with 23% of the total world export, but it has since been surpassed by Kenya. The tea sector employs, directly or indirectly over 1 million people in Sri Lanka, and in 1995 directly employed 215,338 on tea plantations and estates. The central highlands of the country, low temperature climate throughout the year, annual rainfall and the level of humidity are more favorable geographical factors for production in high quality tea. The industry was introduced to the country in 1867 by James Taylor, the British planter who arrived in 1852.

Tea produced in Sri Lanka is ranked top as the finest black tea in the world, grown and produced according to uncompromising, traditional methods and standards. Sri Lanka Tea Board is the apex administrative body of the SriLankan tea industry. It has Tea Museum showcase the history of Ceylon Tea.

Mahauva Estate

Mahauva Estate is the closest tea estate to Walapane town. After Wathumulla tea estate closed remaining tea estate of Wathumulla aquired to Mahauva Estate. The factory located about 5 km towards Nuwara Eliya.

Ragala Group

There are four estates nestled in the undulating landscape of the Piduruthalagala and Ragala mountain ranges. Concordia, Courtlodge and Park estate are located between 1,500m and 2,256m above sea level in the Piduruthalagala mountain range and produce the prestigious high grown quality “Champagne Tea”. Blairlemond estate in the Ragala mountain range is situated between 914m and 1,128 m above the mean sea level. Managed by Finlays.

Udapussellawa Plantation

Udapussellawa Plantations Limited is currently managed by Finlays Colombo PLC, formerly state government tea board managed it. The estates produce about 10 million kilo of made tea. There are approximately 10,000 people work in the plantation. Udapussellawa Plantation located 1,500 to 2,200 metres above sea level. Hence, produce a range of teas which are distinctive in character and flavour. Udapussellawa produces medium and high-grown orthodox tea.

Wedged between the Nuwara Eliya and Badulla districts on the eastern slopes of the hill country, Uda Pussellawa is a small, thinly populated town almost entirely dedicated to tea cultivation. It rises a height of around 2000m (6,400ft). The region is famous for rare wildlife and exotic plant species; leopard still roam its forested hills, and have even been spotted on its plantations from time to time. The Uda Pussellawa region is also close to Walapane, Maturata, Ragalaand Halgranoya plantations.

Due to its location, Uda Pussellawa enjoys climatic conditions very different from those of the western plantation regions. As with neighbouring Uva, the district receives the bulk of its weather from the northeast monsoon system, which waters the eastern slopes of the hill country between November and January. The climate is mostly wet and misty, with the Hakgala region receiving rain on an average of 211 days every year. However, the district also enjoys some ‘blow-over’ from the southwest monsoon between June and September. Having deposited their rains on the western slopes of the hill country, these monsoon winds turn desertly dry by the time they cross the central watershed.

Uda Pussellawa estates thus enjoy not one but two ‘quality seasons’, the western as well as the eastern. This is especially the case with teas from the upper part of the district, bordering Nuwara Eliya (which lies immediately to the west), though elevations in Uda Pussellawa are somewhat lower than they are in Nuwara Eliya, ranging from 950m to 1,600m (3,000-5,000ft).

Tasters’ Notes for Uda Pussellawa Tea

The tea of Uda Pussellawa is sometimes compared in character with that of Nuwara Eliya, though it appears somewhat darker in the cup, with a pinkish hue and a hint of greater strength. The eastern quality season from June to September produces the best teas of the year, closely followed by the western season during the first quarter. The dry, cold conditions during this latter period add a hint of rose to the bouquet of a tea known for its medium body and subtle character. Periods of heavy rainfall, on the other hand, tend to produce a tea that is darker in the cup and stronger-flavoured.

Uda Pussellawa produces a variety of leaf sizes and styles, reflecting the relatively broad range of altitudes at which its estates are situated.

In Europe Uda Pussellawa Ceylon tea consider as exquisitely tangy. The tea grown on the Uda Pussellawa mountain range is of medium body with majestic flavour.

Mathurata Plantation

Mathurata Plantations Ltd. (MPL) is one of the largest tea producing companies in Sri Lanka and is world-renowned for superior quality tea managed by LOLC PLC is a memeber of ORIX Group a pioneer finance venture capital from Japan. MPL has been commercially growing, processing and packaging tea since 1870 and is acknowledged as producers of superior quality ‘Ceylon Tea’ sharing the honour with its sibling company Pussellawa Plantations Ltd. As one of the associate companies through Browns Investments, Mathurata Plantations Ltd. with Pussellawa Plantations Ltd. have jointly planted over 3.2 mn timber trees in an effort to combat global warming.

There are 975 hects. of land under forestry on 11 estates in up country and 08 estates in low country managed by MPL.

After careful study the species have been correctly selected which suites for the Up & Low Country regions as per climatic conditions, and Up country estates are planted with E-Grandis & E. Microcorys, while Low Country Estates are planted with SWITNNIA MACROPHYLLA (Mahogany), TECTONIA GRANDIS (Teak) and E-Grandis have been planted in Akuressa area. All these timber are at high demand, both in construction and Furniture Industries.

Shade trees that were planted includes Albizia & Gravillia, which too has a very good demand as a soft wood timber.

The progress of planting programme and income generated from the sale of timber during the last three years are given below.

Year 2008 2009 2010
Planting (No of plants) 102,036 271,832 279,828
Income(Rs Million) 2.6 17.7 15.3

Life of a Tea Estate

Labouring work at a tea estate can be very hard. People who works in plantation works need lot of energy. During the English colonial era Indian born plantation workers brought to Sri Lanka to work in the cold regions of Udapussellawa and Ragala. Nowadays, these people migrated in the past considered Sri Lanka as their home land have extended families.

Labouring jobs normally start at around 4.30 in the morning, mind you tea region like Walapane, Ragala, Udapussellawa can be very cold in some months covered with mist, dew and drizzle. Tea leaves picking from trees mostly done by woman. These woman cover their head and upper body from a blanket to protect from dew and from sun during day time. Tea leaves are collected to big baskets made from cane. These baskets  can be heavy when filled up. Tea agriculture requires sloppy land to grow the plantation. Hence, walking around plans is not easy as walking in a levelled ground.

The hill slopes are often slippery and snake – infested. Only their sheer perseverance and the determination to keep the home fires burning, keep the lights of life within them burning.

With nimble hands, they pluck the tender leaves for about three hours non – stop and deposit the plucked leaves at a certain spot. With just a sip of plain tea, they resume their plucking tasks. Their noon meal is very poor and in the afternoon by 3.00 p.m., they bring their day’s plucking to the factory where it the it is weighed. Often, if the plucked leaves are not up to the required standard, they are rejected. So it’s time and labor lost.

These poor. Human wretches live in hovels called “lines” – some ten to fifteen little huts joined together. Here, sanitation is almost nil. It is a shame that life like this is lived by people who bring in the highest revenue to the country.