PMD Lorry - keep on (green) trucking

The PMD Tea green lorry is very distinctive, as you may have spotted on our web site or social media feeds, and has carried some of Sri Lanka’s finest teas for over 70 years.

PMD’s roots are in the tea transporter & estate supply business. When the first coffee, and later tea estates were established, many small bazaars and towns popped up and each needed suppyling. This was challenging because of the geography and weather. Entrepreneurial individuals established business to undertake this supply challenge, and it is here that PMD finds its origins.

The PMD Lorry in the Western Estates

My Grandfather first came to the hill country in the mid 1930’s, during the great depression. The hill country and the estates were one of the few places that offered employment and opportunities for those willing to have a go. Starting from working on a shop in Brunswick estate, he went on to buy the shop, which served as the general store for all the resident workers of the neighbouring estates. From here he decided to serve the wider estate’s needs. Namely the transporting of tea chests to the Colombo and London auctions.  

Prior to mechanical transportation, the coffee crops were carried for miles on the heads of workers along steep mountainsides, over patna land and through the jungle down to the nearest cart track. In the pre railways days crop trundled slowly down to the coast by bullock and cart. 

The first mechanised transport arrived in 1867 when the Ceylon Government railway opened. This sped up the transportation process of coffee and later tea down the coast and onto the London tea auction. The tea cart was still in use by many estates to get their tea from estate to the nearest railway line, and it was not until the 1920’s when motorised transport arrived on the estates in the form of the “estate lorry”, did things speed up further. 

Each regional tea district had a dedicated Estate Supplier and Tea Transporter. For the Maskeliya, Dick Oya Districts this was us. Our Green lorries would bring everything an estate needed, firewood to power the tea dryer, food from our own rice mills, for the workers, paint for the factories and bungalows and books for the estate schools. On the return journey the lorries would leave laden with chests of countries finest tea.

Lorry loading at the Brunswick Estate

The Tea chests would sit in our stores in Maskeliya till they had been sold at the Colombo auction or had been catalogued for the London auction. The reason for keeping teas in the hill country is because Colombo has a very hot and humid environment, and only once the teas are sold are they brought down.

Wednesday would be a hive of activity as the high grown auction, known as the “ex estate”, would take place. In the early days the brokers selling the teas, would send telegrams to the company office indicating which invoices had been bought by which buyer. We would load these and make the trip to Colombo. Tea reaching a buyers stores is time critical, and many a night I remember a late phone call saying that a lorry had broken down and that another had to be dispatched to reload the cargo in order to minimise the delay.

Today you can now find those teas on our website, unblended, pure direct from the estate. For superior taste and freshness. How times have changed!