The offering of a cup of tea is considered a universal sign of hospitality, and it could only be apt that Sri Lanka is known as the ‘Isle of Tea’ for all the cups of tea that we have ever offered the world. Professing a prestigious and glorious history, Ceylon Tea dates back to 152 years and has since satisfied millions of taste buds over many decades.
Kabaragalla tea factory was first established in the late 1800’s under the British colonial reign and is a masterpiece of prefabricated industrial engineering that owes its grandiose design to the Victorian engineer. Having unveiled the underlying nostalgia of the days by-gone, the abandoned factory is now graciously restored to its former grandeur after 28 years. Conceived by Mr. Chandra Wickramasinghe – the veteran hotelier and travel agent, Chairman and Managing Director of Theme Resorts & Spas, ‘Tea & Experience Factory’ as the name suggests is a working tea factory that has been transformed into luxury accommodation expediting a novel and unabridged experience surrounding tea culture.
The factory claims a history that is rich and flavoursome. Once a pioneer among the tea manufacturers of Ceylon, it is recorded that the teas of Kabaragalla estate fetched the highest bid at the first public tea auction of Colombo, held on the 30th July 1883 at the offices of Messrs Somerville & Co., Queen Street, Fort. 136 tasteful years later, 30th July 2019 marks another positive leap in Ceylon Tea history with Theme Resorts & Spas launching its new experiential boutique hotel ‘Tea & Experience factory’ in Mandaramuwara.
The cool climate of this rain-fed valley and its awe-enunciating location shielded by mountains, make Mandaramnuwara a rich terrain for agriculture. Amidst numerous terraced paddy fields, tea plantations and gushing streams, the winding path to the hotel maintains the element of suspense at every turn, depriving the guests of a clear view until they arrive at their final destination. Gracefully poised at the foothills of Piduruthalagala shrouded by the beautiful mélange of mist and sunlight, the vintage tea factory and its surroundings take us back to a moment frozen in time.
Redesigning the crude infrastructure has not been an effortless endeavour. The principle architectural challenge was to retain the spirit of the Victorian engineer while incorporating modern conveniences of an international hotel. The design of the hotel was therefore inspired by the concept of Robust architecture. Part of the interior of the sturdy edifice is redesigned to provide luxury accommodation while the exterior steel façade, including its galvanized iron, corrugated sheets and woodwork, has been conserved in its original state.
Hiding behind the rustic façade, the hotel vaunts the view of the opulent nature from its rooms, insisting complete detachment from the hustle and bustle of urban life. ‘Tea & Experience Factory’ offers an ensemble of experiences to satisfy varying preferences of guests from all walks of life. If one’s ‘cup of tea’ is all things nature, an idyllic dip in the heated infinity pool of the hotel will be the acme of the stay. The pool is ideally located to offer a panoramic view of the mist-covered verdant pinnacles of the surrounding mountains which is undeniably frame-worthy. Inspired by the spiritual tranquillity of its surroundings, the hotel features a ‘T-Spa’ where a range of tea-based treatments are offered for those who would appreciate a sip of wellness. Moreover, the in-house Yoga Mandapa of the hotel invites the sojourners to unwind and relax.
Tea & Experience Factory is unique in its concept as guests are invited to reside in luxury in an actual working tea factory where they experience the artisan journey of tea from ‘Leaf to Cup’. A minimum stay of two nights is encouraged in order to leisurely participate in the process of tea production from plucking to packaging. ‘Theme Resorts & Spas’ has always been passionate about enhancing regional experiences and contributing to the community, which is why recruiting locals from the region is a logical choice; the hotel employs an ex-planter whose expertise in tea manufacturing helps ensure the authenticity of the experience. As a reward for contributing first-hand in the production, guests are gifted a sample of their tea to take back home as a souvenir.
Adding to the rich array of experiences offered by ‘Tea & Experience Factory’, the hotel facilitates a number of treks in the surrounding wilderness. The naturalists of the hotel are trained to guide the guests through several trails that have been carefully mapped out. Mandaramunuwara is home not only to picturesque landscapes and breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls, but also to a
few iconic sites in the legend of Ravana and Seetha. With an exciting fusion of adventure, nature and legend, the periphery of this property is an ideal location for enthusiastic explorers.
‘Tea & Experience Factory’ is as unique in many ways as its name implies. Adding to this uniqueness and authenticity, a spoonful of the colonial planters’ culture is stirred into the culinary experience. Colonial residences were famed for their devoted cooks or ‘Appus’ as they were called at the time. In keeping with tradition, meals at ‘Tea & Experience Factory’ are exclusively prepared by ‘Appus’ whose invaluable cooking skills and prestigious culture has been passed down from father to son. In addition to the remarkable tea-infused food and beverages on offer, the high-tea experience featuring home-made spreads is not to be missed.
With careful attention to every detail of the overall themed experience, ‘Tea & Experience Factory’ is the first of its kind to offer its guests a full-blown experience around tea culture. A product of responsible curators for a variety of themed experiences well scattered around the island, the hotel insists on sustainability, declaring itself completely plastic free. Turning a new page in Ceylon Tea history with their newest addition to their srilankanised resort assortment, Theme Resorts & Spas hence rewrites the story of your delightful cuppa tea.