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The World’s Best Tea, from leaf to cup

Mandaramnuwara, is home to arguably Sri Lanka’s finest tea. A five - hour drive from Colombo, the ‘Misty City’ has all the unique charm of the Up Country, along with a rich heritage of producing the best tea the country has to offer.

The city of Mandaramnuwara

The Tea & Experience Hotel is the perfect slice of Mandaramnuwara. Formally a fully - operational Tea Factory in the 1800’s, the building is now remodeled as a charming and luxurious retreat. The property offers many experiences to the traveler who is passionate about learning more about its famous local export, and taking in the lush countryside that surrounds the expansive property.

Mandaramnuwara Tea Factory

A tea lover’s cuppa’ tea

As a former Tea Factory, the hotel is able to offer a uniquely immersive experience called ‘Leaf to Cup’. This experience allows travelers to enjoy the hotel’s trademark comfort and nostalgia influenced by British engineering and design whilst getting their hands dirty in an end-to-end production of tea, the lifeblood of the town.

Plucking at your heart strings

The curated tour begins early, the same time the Tea Pluckers begin their flurried activity across the sprawling plantation. Guests are taught by the experts how to choose light colored tea leaves and flushes, this includes a bud, two young leaves and maybe a third. This first hand insight is provided via hands -on lessons, knee deep in the tea bushes of Mandaramnuwara.

The plantations are separated in to sections, allowing the plucking process to be completed in stages, revisiting a completed area only after seven to ten days of re-growth.

Each expert tea plucker can collect up to eighteen kilograms of tea leaves a day which is carried in a basket or bag attached to their backs. Guests then join these hard –working ladies in carrying their basket to Collection Centers that weigh and sort the day’s harvest.

The experience ends on Day One at the Factory where machines dry the leaves for the next fourteen hours, essentially wilting the crop, removing any moisture.

One cozy sleep later…

Early the next morning, the Tea to Cup experience starts right back where it left off. The wilted leaves are transferred to a Rolling Machine that essentially bruises and tears the leaves to encourage the release of enzymes and tannins that increase the quality of the drinking experience.

Twenty minutes later, the leaves are transferred to a large rotor vane machine that grinds the bruised leaves. The ground leaves are then sent through a roll breaking technique that separates the physical impurities from the finely ground tea.

One and half hours later, a fermentation process that encourages the oxidation of the leaves is complete and the final cleaning process employs a three-levelled sifting machine that grades the tea, leaving behind the refuse.

At each stage, guests are allowed to be hands - on under the safe supervision of Factory Managers who are engaging in sharing their knowledge about the history of plantation and the manufacturing process.

This authentic and immersive adventure is complete when guests are allowed to take home a souvenir of the tea they helped pluck and process, allowing the Tea to Cup experience come full circle.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls (or do)

The Tea & Experience Hotel also offers guests incredible access to three secluded, picture perfect waterfalls. Accompanied by a naturalist, guests discover hidden paths and bathing spots over a full day Waterfall Hunt that is complete with a packed picnic. These waterfalls in and around the town of Mandaramnuwara are often only accessible after an hour’s drive and a hike through shoulder high grasslands. One waterfall features a man-made dam that allows the clean water to form a deep blue pool for wading and bathing.

Despite the temperamental weather conditions of Mandaramnuwara, the sight of the Ethinamulla Waterfall (Elamulla falls), closet to the hotel, will have you in your bathers despite the freezing water, and ready for your insta - worthy capture.

Guests who are well-travelled will no doubt understand that the most incredible part of Waterfall Hunting in a place like Mandaramnuwara is how accessible, secluded and clean each location is. While other parts of the world charge travelers a premium for a similar experience, in Sri Lanka, a private waterfall is on the agenda at no extra cost.

The perfect blend

A visit to Mandaramnuwara for the best tea in the world is truly an experience for the senses at the historic Tea & Experience Hotel. Set in the perfect location, with the aroma of tea wafting through the air, the hotel is cozy and has an air of old – world charm. From high tea served on the grounds to dining experiences perfected by local ‘appus’ (home cooks) using the freshest produce, the hotel allows guests to truly immerse themselves in a retreat that is both adventurous and luxurious. Mandaramnuwara is home to much more than just the world’s best tea; the people, the climate and the views all make for a heady blend.

Check out our video for a more in-depth experience of Mandaramnuwara as we visit all these places and more.

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