November 25, 2022 2 min read

I have spoken in the past about how Chinese and Indian tea bushes deliver a different flavour to a cup of tea. This week I want to share my experiences of a tea fusion between Japan and Sri Lanka.

Earlier this year I visited Mattakelle Estate to take a closer look at a Japanese tea bush, Benifuuki, that was gifted to the estate a few years earlier. I was eager to taste and see how a Japanese tea bush growing in Sri Lankan soil and climate was getting on. The result is an Award Winner.

Matakelle Estate on the Western Slopes of Dimbula - Central Province

Mattakelle is found on the western slopes of Dimbula, close to the town of Talawakelle. Tea grows here at 5000ft above sea level, and Mattakelle is best known for producing some of Sri Lankan’s most sought-after teas. Their teas are thick, coloury and have a lot of strength, which is how Sri Lankan’s like their tea, with a  generous splash of milk.

Benifuuki is a Japanese green tea that originates from a hybrid bush formed of both the Chinese and Assamica cultivars. In Japan the leaf from this bush is used to produce Benifuuki Sencha green tea, which gives a potent herbaceous flavour to the cup. 

On first impressions the Japanese bush is different to many of the native Sri Lankan bushes The leaf is darker and from even the 3rd leaf down from the top bud, the leaf is a lot thicker and tougher.

The Mattakelle Estate are very strict about its picking and processing and are searching for only the young supple leaves. As plucking is key to making good tea, the tea makers only harvest the bud and the first leaf. This results in then needing nearly 10kg of leaf and bud to produce 1 kg of tea. The hand-picked tea is then lightly withered, hand rolled. This delicate handling preserves the bud which can be seen in the black leaf.

Only pick the bud and the top leaf!

When this technique is applied to the Benifuuki, what results is a fusion of flavours. The herbaceous notes that one associates with the Sencha are present along with the thicker mouthfeel that one gets from tasting a Mattakelle black tea. It is quite an experience.

The Mattakelle Estate Golden Curl is one tea that you must have in your Tea collection and you can buy it here…….

Visiting the Matakelle Team

Stephen McAlister
Stephen McAlister