Tamil is the main language spoken by many of Sri Lanka's citizens who live in the 'up country' estates and for those estates lying in the high western slopes December through the early parts of the year are critical and very busy months.
From December onwards, the weather dries up and for a high-quality season to be delivered we need a few weeks of dry weather coupled with the strong south-westerly winds.
A Great Western Sunset
The tea bushes have been starved of water for a number of weeks, and the wind forces the bush to produce volatile flavours that are stored in the new growth. When the new growth is picked and produced the flavour of the tea develops far better than other times of the year. During the monsoon months of May to June, growth is slower, resulting in less leaf to pick and lower quality.
This time of year allows for other vital estate work to be carried out. Estates are communities in their own right and with the drier season it allows for maintenance work to be carried out: Road repairs, Sign painting, Factory maintenance including roof repairs. During the monsoon season this work is not possible.
The New Year also sees many international tea buyers arrive on the island, each looking for those sought after Western high grown crucial for their tea blends. Buyers from Japan are very particular about quality and taste, and only buy the best from the Western high growth estates.
One of my reasons for being on the island at this time of year, (apart from the fact that Britain is grey and miserable in January), is to get the best made Western high grown teas direct from the estates before Japanese buyers get to them!
One of the estates that consistently produces great teas is Somerset Tea estate from the Nanu Oya district. The teas that grow here are at a higher elevation as compared with others such as those from Dick Oya or Maskeliya districts, and consequently have a slightly lighter liquor, but produce a more flavourful cup with a very aromatic nose.
2010 was a vintage year from the Somerset Estate and is one of the best I have ever tasted It was the perfect culmination of ideal prolonged weather producing fantastic teas. I still remember opening a sample of Somerset's Pekoe grade of tea, and the whole tasting room filling with the aroma of this very special tea. Amazing memories.
Somerset Tea will be back on our website with the 2023 crop later this year. We'll let you know when it arrives
PMD Travels in the Western Estates