True tea lovers know that there are few problems that can’t be made at least a little better by a good cup of tea. If you’re a lover of this ancient beverage with a lust for travel, we have just the destinations you’ve been dreaming of.
Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Tea lovers’ ears will pique when you refer to Sri Lanka by its old name – Ceylon – a name still used to refer to some of the finest teas in the world. While its possible to see the rolling tea plantations growing throughout the hills of this island nation, the colonial hill station of Nuwara Eliya is a prime spot to revel in Sri Lankan tea. This soaring tea growing region remains imbued with a peculiarly English feel, so much so that it has earned the nickname “Little England.” Learn the origins of you cup of fine Ceylon at the Pedro Tea Estate, where you can take a guided tour of the factory (founded in 1885 and still functioning) and wander the nearby, plantation-adjacent paths.
The area around Nuwara Eliya also has great significance in Hinduism, as it’s home to several sites associated with the story of the Ramayana. The beautiful Hakgala Botanical Gardens, a short bus ride away, is said to be the pleasure garden offered by King Ravana to the kidnapped Sita as he tried to convince her to marry him. On the way to the gardens you’ll find the Sita Amman Temple, where Sita supposedly prayed to be rescued by Rama during her captivity.
Tianshen Tea City, Shanghai, China
Tea enthusiasts walking into Tianshen Tea City may have to pinch themselves to ensure they’re not dreaming – over 150 stalls, all specializing in tea, fill this multi-level market. Take a deep breath and don’t get overwhelmed- the vendors here are here to help. They’re happy to tell you whatever you want to know (and possibly more) about the teas they have on offer, and many also offer free samples of have tea service, so there’s not need to be intimidated by the vast array of leaves available. When you’ve made your selections, wander upstairs to the second and third levels, where you’ll find all the tools you need for brewing and serving your fantastic new beverages.
For true tea lovers visiting China, The Huanshan Teahouse on Mt. Huashan is a sure way to prove your devotion to their favorite drink. Perched at over 700 feet in a former Taoist temple, reaching the Huanshen Teahouse requires quite the journey, of which hiking up the world’s steepest staircase is perhaps the least adrenaline-pumping part.
Between Kyoto and Nara sits Uji, the green tea capital of Japan. Famous for its matcha, Uji is the place to go for lovers of authentic green tea. Some of the teashops here have been offering their renowned leaves for hundreds of years. Inside the stores you’ll see the process of steamed tea leaves becoming matcha powder, and then have the opportunity to sample some of the fine teas created here. You can also sip at the government-run Taiho-an Tea House, where traditional Japanese tea ceremonies treat tea with the same reverence and respect true tea enthusiasts know it deserves. For a more irreverent, but still delicious, treat, try one (or many) of the matcha infused sweets available – offerings range from match coated soft-serve ice cream to tea-infused dagon (Japanese dumplings) to sophisticated, matcha-inspired East-West fusion delights.
While you’re here, take a break from sipping to visit the beautiful Byodo-in Temple, whose gorgeous architecture is featured on the ¥10 coin.