04 September 2018

Greenfields Estate, Sri Lanka, a personal viewpoint

Greenfields Estate, Sri Lanka, a personal viewpoint

A personal viewpoint from Sally Fordy, on a recent visit to Greenfields spice and tea estate in Sri Lanka. Greenfields is where many of the Fairtrade spices and teas come from at Steenbergs and we've traded with them for the last 15 years, our tea for our organic Fairtrade Earl Grey tea, loose leaf comes from them. Sally has involved off and on in Steenbergs since its inception.

As I was in Sri Lanka working for the exceptional philanthropic charity, The Foundation of Goodness (www.unconditionalcompassion.org), which empowers the less privileged rural communities to make better progress, I took the opportunity to visit The Thotulagala Estate, belonging to Greenfield, whilst on my limited days of travel.

Amongst the organic lemongrass sprouting wherever I walked, and the cinnamon ‘branches’ being used as windbreakers, I felt so privileged to have been driven off-road, downhill for 20 minutes to reach this little oasis. Pepper creepers entwined themselves around carefully selected trees and I was educated about the four different peppercorns and the incredible skill of stripping and curling the cinnamon bark into the exquisite cinnamon that Sri Lanka produces – so sweet and delicious just to chew! I did show my naivety, not only with the spices but, much to the amusement of my dear guide, the Estate Manager, when I bounded up to an earth mound with very round roles, ‘Miss Sally do not go any closer, that is a snake home.’

Our journey then took us to the pristine Greenfield Tea Plantation, Fairtrade and organic who also empower their workers by giving them benefits to enhance the families – they provide a school bus for the workers’ children, emergency medicine, vehicles for transport in an emergency, school books and shoes – which continues the whole ‘organic’ theme and reflects the ethos of the charity I had been working for. I felt blessed to be where I was. 

Climbing up the incline cleared by the pioneer planters almost two centuries earlier, pluckers were busy weaving their way, barefooted and with woven baskets strapped across their foreheads, along the stony paths, through the wild bushes using a stick as a levelling guide for the picking. New plantations gave a more orderly appearance, forming a ribbed, leafy carpet over the hillsides. New oolong bushes were pointed out to me, and the tips used for white tea – what an education I received during the day!

The respect shown to the Estate Manager and the land was evident, giving rise to an incredibly tidy and efficient estate with a powerful product. Such attitude was mirrored as I toured the processing factory to see the methods used to dry, sift, grade and pack the tea, having delivered the full bags of leaves to the factory door. Tasting completed, many questions were answered as I enjoyed an array of delicious organic vegetable dishes, Sri Lankan style. An extraordinary day with so much kindness shown and I felt totally honoured to have had such an experience. 

For more of Sally's photos of the Greenfield spice and tea plantations please click here.