Despite its diminutive size, Sri Lanka hosts a rich tapestry of climates, from mountainous sweeps and verdant plantations to humid rainforests and idyllic beaches. Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka was once a flourishing coffee producer but is today blanketed with lush Ceylon tea farms. Those staying at The Milestone Hotel & Residences can sample the finest picks of Ceylon tea, care of the hotel’s valued supplier, PMD Tea. Here, we journey to Sri Lanka’s fragrant tea-growing regions in search of the perfect brew.
Drenched in heavy monsoon rains from May to September, the estates in the world-famous Dimbula valley pick their finest Ceylon tea at the start of the year. The varied topography here affords a wide spectrum of flavours. Lighter varieties are plucked from its loftiest expanses, while down in the valley, a darker, fuller-bodied crop thrives.
Located at high altitude and veiled with swirling mists, PMD Tea’s Inverness Tea Estate Ceylon hand-picks its tea. This crop is a large-leaf plant that yields a fantastic, rosy-hued breakfast brew.
Characterised by jagged peaks and scented with wild eucalyptus and mint, Nuwara Eliya is one of Sri Lanka’s best-known growing districts. It has the highest average elevation in the country and the air is cool and crisp as a result. With its red post boxes and colonial bungalows, it could be mistaken for the British countryside. During most seasons, the rainfall is heavier here than in Dimbula, but the harvests between February and March, and July and August produce a lighter cup that is, despite its pale colour, much fuller in flavour.
Nuwara Eliya is famed for producing the ‘Champagne of Ceylon teas’, and it’s where PMD Tea’s delicate Lovers’ Leap is produced. The blend was the only tea to be served at the HM Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012, making it, quite literally, a tea fit for the queen.
The teas originating from the lower-slung region of Ruhuna are very different to their higher-sourced siblings. The tea-growing model in this district is the most prolific in Sri Lanka, with the area producing more than half of the country’s tea. Nutrient rich soil, a lower elevation and a hot, humid rainforest climate contribute to a brew that’s stronger and more robust. When tasting PMD Tea’s New Vithanakande, sourced from this area, expect a cup that’s jet black and infused with hints of forest fruits.
Tucked away in the east of the island, Uva was one of the last provinces in Sri Lanka to be planted with tea crops due to its remote location. The single train track which links Uva with capital Colombo was only established in 1924. Prior to this, it required a hefty expedition to access the area.
PMD Tea’s award-winning Planters’ Afternoon carries a distinctive character. This is because a cool, dry wind blows into the Uva basin from the ocean and causes the tea plants here to close up for survival, changing the cells of their leaves to become concentrated with a high balance of flavour. The end result? An afternoon favourite that’s light and crisp with a floral finish.