Living the life of a tea planter | Daily News

Living the life of a tea planter

If you have to be lockdown anywhere then why not in a tea plantation like Dickoya Bungalow situated in the Hatton region of tea, which is an excellent place to enjoy traditional life and have the joy of a garden for your kids to play around in. With staycations becoming the new norm, then why not make a tea bungalow your travel base and enjoy exploring the areas many walks and attractions including doing the night climb of the Adam’s Peak.

I feel immediately at ease as we pull up at Dickoya greeted by lovely staff at the entrance of this elegantly restored plantation house with a cool towel and welcome tray of tea and home made biscuits. A charming spot surrounded by a stunning English style tropical garden tended by seventy three year old Marimuttu for over forty three years. I drop my bags in room 4, a stately room with four poster bed, and a conservatory style sitting room that overlooks the estate and if lucky early morning a place, where you can see the Barking deer and enjoy a cup of morning breakfast tea brought to you by one of the lovely butlers.

After sipping a glorious cup of tea in the sitting room full of wonderful books to read about the history of tea, I get on my walking boots and head out and explore the lush tropical gardens with a pair of binoculars as it is a great spot for birding. The place is brimming over with history and where ever you walk tea pickers and passers by will tell you funny stories including how Taylor founded tea. However spend longer at the bungalow enjoying traditional hill country meals in the master dinning room or on the open verandah and you will soon discover that people were growing tea much earlier than Taylor in the region as revealed in the bible of tea Golden Tips by HW Cave in the Dickoya living room.

Each morning sunrise reveals a lively bunch of pluckers and some lovely vintage vehicles including an old English red tractor trundling past the house. It is hard to imagine as I put on a sun hat that this area was originally coffee country and is now the most heavenly region for gourmet artisan teas. I am told about how the early pioneers had to hack through the forest to create the first tracks, which I am currently meandering along as previously less than 150 years ago there would have been only Cloud forest where I am standing. In some parts of the paths you can see cart tracks from a time before trains and the motorcar, tea was moved by ox carts explains the chef of Dickoya. These painfully slow carts would go to the Colombo Tea Auction House to get the best prices before being shipped overseas. Having been in a Ox cart for a Galle Fort wedding and to move wood to my house I was impressed that anyone could go such a long distance in such an uncomfortable mode of transport.

The first tea plant was grown in 1824 in the Royal Gardens of Peradeniya known today as The Royal Botanic Gardens. The path is dotted with pretty Angelina Trumpet flowers, which make a nice contrast to the endless green tea bushes grown to female height so it is easy for them to pick fast and efficiently. It seems that in the mid 19th century Hatton was the place to be with the first Millers shop, later merging with Cargills opening there and The Darrawella Planters Club being built in a hugely grand style. It was so popular that anybody who was anybody in the tea industry would visit this holy grail of cricket including Jack Hobbs who played in their cricket grounds, when visiting their cricket fields on his trip around the island. This sporting club founded by the British Tea Planters in 1868 is directly opposite another excellent tea bungalow the Craig Appin by Jetwing. Besides founding the rugby club in 1908, it also has an indoor Badminton court, snooker and tennis facilities. Of course even today the drinking club is popular with a stunning wooden bar and ladies room, where women could retire from the action to share news over leather couches and golden cups of hand picked tea. Sadly for now with lockdown all this is closed however the endless walks around the grounds, all be it in a mask with hand sanitiser at the ready is a delightful way to escape the mounting daily pressures of the never ending global pandemic.

Walking through the pine forest on a hot days is cooling and you can see as you circumnavigate the area just how many different religions religious buildings exist. Over hundreds of years different religions have resulted not surprisingly in mixed marriages and this has brought deep harmony to the area, as through this they have come to understand each others differences, which they respect through working along side each other in one of the countries biggest foreign currency earners tea. Cultural mixation as people in the hill country call it does not allow space for conflict as they understand and learn from the many different approaches to solving any given problem. This mixation leads to good community team work, excellent self development, which should really be the model for the whole island. A common goal is now to work for higher economic and sustainable development of the soon to be totally organic tea industry, which they hope will spread to all other areas of working practices. The most important resource in any country after all is the human being and their well being and knowing about the medicinal values of the islands millions of plants and how tea can be used in so many different and unusual ways.

For me right now in a stressed out world there is no better escape than a planters bungalow, where drinking tea is refreshing to your mind yet calming to your body. Also walking through these hills reconnects you with nature and frees you from self slavery and destructive thinking. Among many things you can learn the art of sari dressing, how to make healthy floral edible salad and learn first hand the benefits of remote hill country living. For more on the many trails you can do go to www.facebook.com/teacountrytrail


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