1. Have high tea at the Grand
In the highest, dampest reaches of Sri Lanka’s gorgeous Hill Country is the small town of Nuwara Eliya. It was once the summer retreat of choice of British colonials wishing to escape the repressive heat of Colombo and the coast.
Today the town is known for its quaint Home Counties of yesteryear atmosphere. It also sits at the centre of Sri Lankan tea production. Combining the best of both tea and colonial memories is High Tea at The Grand Hotel.
The half-timbered Grand is one of the town's top historic hotels and every afternoon at 3.30pm sharp smarty turned out waiters in white reveal a spread of cheese and cucumber sandwiches, Battenberg cakes and a range of high quality teas served in dainty cups that would make Queen Victoria herself proud.
2. Sleep like a tea planter
The tourist boom of the past few years has seen once decrepit colonial-era tea planters’ bungalows being restored and turned into boutique hotels. Of the many such options now available perhaps the best are the five Tea Trails bungalows located in the middle of some of the oldest tea estates in the country.
A stay at one of these bungalows is all about tea time pampering. Your own personal butler will wake you with ‘bed tea’ (essentially just a cup of tea to be drunk in bed), after which you’ll be taken for a long walk through the surrounding tea estates with the resident expert, visit a tea factory, do an awful lot of tea tasting and then come back to your bungalow where your butler will serve you single malt whisky around an open log fire. There are certainly worse ways to spend your time in Sri Lanka...
3. Take tea in the t-Lounge, Colombo
Dilmah is Sri Lanka’s biggest tea producer and t-Lounge, in the upmarket Fort area of Colombo, is their showpiece café. The tea served here isn’t like the tea you know and it certainly doesn’t come from in a bag.
This is gourmet stuff that uses only the finest leaves and it comes served in champagne flutes or martini glasses. If you’re feeling peckish then their Long Afternoon Tea is an indulgent ceremony of snacks and hot drinks not to be missed.
4. Take a tea estate tour
There are several tea estates and factories across Sri Lanka’s Hill Country that offer short tours. The most informative is at the Dambatenne Tea Factory around 10km northeast of the tea-producing town of Haputale.
Tours here, like those anywhere, are short and best done early in the morning when the factory is at its most active. You’ll be shown the whole process behind tea production and, if you’re lucky, be invited to taste the tea afterwards.