The Ella area seems richly productive, witness the gorgeous terraced rice fields (so very reminiscent, for me, of the Tiger Leaping Gorge hike w/Howard and Gene in January 2006 – go back and see those photos, if you like these!). This was the first chance I’d had to walk a tea planation since I was a college kid in Taiwan back in the 1980s. In the interim, I’d become confused by Jill & Chuck describing tea as growing on trees. It’s still confusing to me, but I’ve learned this much: here in Sri Lanka (and based on my experience in Taiwan, similar there as well), tea grows on shrubs which can grow fairly tall (I think it said 8 to 10 meters) but which are pruned back to the lovely glossy bushes you see here, the easier for the (all Tamil women) workforce to pick the little lovelies, after which they are partly dried and then broken and fermented or aged. Tea needs steep hillsides, and elevation; here in SL, it mostly grows above about 500 meters, I think, and different elevations give you different kinds of flavor. Who knew?! The tea fields in this part of Sri Lanka are really gorgeous.

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