Mousakelle Dam and the lost town of Kintyre

If you visit our spiritual home of Maskeliya to climb Sri Pada (Adams Peak) then you will see the large body of water that is today known as the Mousakelle Dam.

In this area, January to Feburary is a pivotable time for tea.

Tea reaches its peak quality level at this time of the year especially on the western side of the island but not always!  In the tea trade this is called the “Western Quality Season” 

The season is brought on by a lack of rain that starts during December and a strong south westerly wind that blows across the island. The wind starts in the lowland plains, rises into the hill country, and then descends into the various tea valleys that make up Dimbula. 

Each season is different. As I have discussed in previous blogs, tea growing is highly unpredictable and dependent on things outside of our control, including the ever-changing weather patterns.

The Old Kintyre Maskeliya town with Adams Peak in the background.

One of the signs we use at PMD Tea to gauge the quality of the Western Quality Season is the pool of water that is found in our home of Maskeliya. This pool is known as the Mousakelle Dam. Until 1969 it was where the old town of Kintyre Maskeliya lay along with the, now lost, tea estates of Kintyre, Gangewatte, Blantyre and part of Laxapana. In 1969 the old town was flooded to make way for a new hydroelectric dam and new town established on parts of Glentilt estate.

Opening day at the PMD Cinema Hall. On very dry years the concrete bolcks that the lions are paced on can be seen. 

During the season, the waters of the dam recede, and the old town emerges. Many of the buildings found in the old town were broken up and taken to build the new town. However, the places of worship were left intact, and these are the first buildings that appear along with the bridges. Our rule of thumb is that the more of the old town that can be seen the better the quality of the tea we will have. During the height of a good season one can walk back into the old town and many of the locals will go back into the old temples to pray. 

The old town Buddhist temple emerges. The hindu Kavil is in the background.

The last vintage year was in 2017 which produced some of the best western quality teas since 2010. Many parts of the old town were visible and the teas that we tasted that year, although lighter in body, were full of seasonal flavour. 

This all reminds us that tea production is seasonal, and that flavours are unpredictable but let us keep our fingers crossed that 2024 will be a vintage year.