Lipton’s tea legacy, a seat to see the sunrise

January 31, 2015


We saved the best of Haputale until last in our opinion. An early morning trip to Lipton’s Seat to see the sunrise over the whole of the southern part of the island. Thomas Lipton lived up the mountain from Haputale in a bungalow close to his tea factory, Dambatenne. He often took visitors up to an area of his plantation to have picnics and “Enjoy the bounty of nature.” This area is still amongst the lines and lines of tea as part of the plantation of Dambatenne and has been named ‘Lipton’s seat’.

It was a 4:45 am start from our guesthouse that morning, into the Tuk Tuk for an hour up the windy mountain roads (which were a lot worse in the dark). When we reached the plantation the road was closed by a locked gate so we had to hike up to the top. Mist was settled on the tops of the tea plants and it seemed as though we were climbing stairs up to a cloud that was always just out of reach. Our hopes to see the sunrise appeared futile but there was still a chance that the sun would burn through.

The sun rises around 6 am pretty reliably in Sri Lanka. 6 came and went. Our solace mixed with reverence at the occasional views down the mountain when the mist cleared. The mist cleared around 6:40 almost in an instant and we were treated to a stunning display of pinks and golds shining through the clouds, take a look at the pics although they don’t quite do it justice.

So the early morning was way worth it and we walked back down to the Tuk Tuk talking happily with Shirodh – another family member cum driver – about his life in Haputale, his views on the world. He’s a very special person who promotes peace and helps fund the local children’s education if they can’t afford it.

Our journey down was soundtracked by shirodh’s collection of Indian music which is sung in his native Tamil language. Descending down through the rolling hills of tea with Indian film sound tracks playing in the background has to be one of our best experiences ever.

We had wanted to go to Lipton’s Dambatenne tea factory on the way back down but it wasn’t open that early. We’d have to go and come back.

Bearing in mind we wanted to get a 5 hour bus South to Mirissa that day (it turned out to be 9 hours but that’s another story!) we considered not going back up the mountain to the tea factory before we left, crikey we were both so glad that we did! Backpacks stuffed into the Tuk Tuk we went back up to see a working tea factory in action.

Fascinating stuff. We saw all the leaves from the green buds that are picked from the bush up until the packages ready to be shipped from Colombo all over the world. There were no pictures so you’ll just have to imagine the machines cutting, drying, oxygenating, and firing the tea at 127 degrees. It is sifted through an ingenious piece of British engineering into its size of grain. They said that english breakfast is made from these methods with Ceylon tea bushes.

From here we went into Haputale to get our bus, we got some provisions for the journey including milk tea, some vegetable roti, and a really sugary drink called Necto.