After our visit to Temple Of The Tooth we took a tuk-tuk over to Kandy’s Ceylon Tea Museum. The museum is housed in the former Hanthana Tea Factory, built in 1925. Walking around this old building felt like you walked back in time. The museum features all the old tea factory equipment on the first floor. When you enter you get a guide with your ticket. It was helpful for us to have one. She was able to explain the entire tea making process and the history of the tea industry in Sri Lanka.
On the second floor there were tea artifacts from the early days of Ceylon tea production. The tea factory was turned into the Tea Research Institute of Ceylon in 1959. The second floor also featured intriguing contraptions used in tea science experiments. Finally, on this floor we saw the personal effects of the “Father of Ceylon Tea Industry” and tea industry items from the 1800s.
We learned about James Taylor – not the musician, hehehe. James Taylor is known in Sri Lanka as the “Father Of Ceylon Tea Industry.” Originally from Scotland, he moved to Sri Lanka from London in October of 1851 at the age of 17. Another famous Scotsman who grew Ceylon tea was “Sir Lipton.” So – if you’ve ever had Lipton’s tea, you’ve had Ceylon tea.
Before tea plantations, British and Dutch colonists tried to plant coffee in Sri Lanka. But that didn’t work out so well. In 1869, the thriving coffee industry in Sri Lanka was devastated by a fungal disease, Hemileia vastatrix, also known as coffee leaf rust (CLR). This blighted the coffee crops for over the next 20 years!
James Taylor decided to try tea, since coffee didn’t go so well. Taylor set up shop at the Loolcondera estate in Hewaheta which was a few miles from present day Kandy. And as hard work and luck would have it, the Ceylon tea he planted grew and he kick started the Ceylon Tea industry in Sri Lanka. During the 40 years he lived in Sri Lanka, he only took ONE vacation and it was spent studying tea in Darjeeling. This man really loved tea. Unfortunately, Taylor died of dysentery in Sri Lanka in 1892 at the age of 57. He is buried at Mahaiyawa Cemetery in Kandy.
On the third floor there was a cafe which served complimentary Ceylon tea! There was also a store in which you could buy tea and souvenirs. To finish the tour with a hot pot of tasty tea was a real treat. I’d highly recommend this tour to any tea lover.