Tea Factory Hotel, Nuwara Eliya, Hill Country

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The Tea Factory Hotel

Waterfall in Nuwara Eliya on the way to the Tea Factory HotelWe then push on as we need to get to our hotel. It’s past time for lunch and while none of us are now in any sort of routine for eating, stomachs are starting to rumble. The journey to Nuwara Eliya is a classic mountain climb with sharp bends twisting and turning as the reach ever higher. As the van rises relentlessly towards the summit there is a noticeable cooling of the temperature. While it is remains hot, there is a cool breeze now and at times when the sun hides behind a cloud you can actually feel a slight chill.

We reach Nuwara Eliya and Chris takes us to a Chinese Restaurant for lunch. This feels slightly incongruous. Sri Lanka has a strong Indian feel along with a strange mix of colonialism, mainly British. China has not figured at all in the people or architecture we’ve seen to this point so it’s a bit odd to find ourselves sitting in a quiet and rather well to do Chinese restaurant. However the food is excellent, calming our complaining tummies!

Chris moves us hurries us along after the meal because we need to meet with the Hotel bus that comes down to Nuwara Eliya to pick up guests. This seems strange but as we soon discover, the bumpiness of the roads in Sri Lanka that we’ve encountered so far is nothing compared to the road up from Nuwara Eliya to the Tea Factory Hotel where we are staying. Chris parks the van in a secure compound and a small army of hotel staff help to move the luggage to a large bus. The final climb up to the Hotel is slow, which is just as well because each metre is like driving over a small road safety bump in the UK. We’re really in the middle of the tea growing area here and on every side, tea plantations stretch out, working their way like neat combs up the site of the hills. Every now and then we see tea picker, with collection bags on their back working their way slowly through the plantations.

View of the tea factory on the way up from  Nuwara EliyaAs we get close, we turn a corner and get our first view of the Tea Factory Hotel. As its name suggests, this hotel has been converted from an original tea factory and the first view of it confirms this fact. It is a large, roughly square building which gives an impression of being mainly glass and pale green panels. Despite being a factory originally, it is not an unpleasant view and the children’s excitement starts to grow again – they always love new hotels and base a lot of their judgement of places based on the quality of the swimming pool!

As we approach the hotel there is a small one story building just to the right of a large automatic vehicle gate. It turns out that this is the drivers and staff quarters and Chris waves goodbye as he joins a number of other drivers. The Children are fascinated by this. They have often asked us where Chris stays when we’re staying at a hotel and this is the first time we’ve been able to see the accommodation. While it’s not as grand as the hotel itself, it looks clean and functional which is a relief. We’ve all started to regard Chris as a friend and we won’t hate to think he had to stay anywhere unpleasant while we’re in the luxury in a 5 star hotel.

The Tea Factory is an unusual hotel in a wonderful location. As the name suggests the hotel has been created in a building that in times gone by was a tea factory. While the outside building has a factory feel (although not at all unpleasant) the hotel grounds has a strong English Colonial feeling which is further emphasised by the much cooler atmosphere compared to the lower lands of Kandy where we’ve just come from. With the tea plantations stretching around the hotel, dotted with women picking tea, you could be mistaken from feeling that you’re in a different age.

The welcome to the hotel is warm, friendly and unusual. We are greeted by smartly dressed staff in bright white shirts, dark trousers and smart green and black waist coats. Tea Factory Hotel welcome of tea and a red dot on the foreheadThey had us cool damp towels, complimentary fruit juice and a traditional red painted dot on all of our foreheads! Inside the hotel there are more indications of the hotel’s previous function. The life continues to be an old fashioned type which is more of a cage so that you can see the stair case that goes around the lift as it goes up. Some of the larger factory equipment is still in place and has been incorporated into the hotels décor.

By now however my foot has swollen significantly and in true man style I am worrying that I’ve possibly done something more serious than simply twisting it. However Lisa is supremely confident as all women are about male ailments, that there is nothing really wrong! We are shown to our rooms which are nice if a little old fashioned (although this is in keeping with the overall feel of the hotel). The children then discover the one big downside (from their perspective) of the hotel – no swimming pool. I guess in the context of the weather here compared to the heat everywhere else it make sense that a pool is not particular required however it is still very warm compared to Britain. There is a very “quaint” playground however and the boys spend a pleasant couple of hours playing in it.

Restaurant in the Tea Factory Hotel

Dinner at the hotel is another very colonial affair. The main restaurant known as the Kenmare, in keeping with the rest of the hotel, has the feel of England in bygone years. The overriding colour is a dark wood and natural wood is used all over from the large square window frames to the floor and walls. It is dimly lit we feel we’ve step back in time a hundred years.

There is also a restaurant created in an old train carriage, left over from the old hill trains that used to serve the area. The trains stopped running in the 1940s and all that remains now, at least at the Tea Factory Hotel, is a single carriage, transformed into a unique restaurant.

We’re a bit early and there is no one else in the restaurant. As we get to the door we can see the staff lined up with the head chef walking along the line, checking that everything is properly in place and running through the instructions for the evening. We’re shown quickly to our places and as always the food is great. We’re beginning to get used to the things on the hotel buffets although the food in the tea factory has more than a sprinkle of western food among the many Sri Lankan dishes.

Leaving the Tea Factory Hotel

Tea pickers outside the Tea Factory HotelStanding in the morning outside the Tea Factory is a delight. The overcast sky has cleared and the sun is beating down but there is a pleasant breeze coming off the hills around the hotel. The tea plantations is a picture postcard view of row upon row of neatly planted tree plants like soldiers lined up for inspection. Passing between the rows are tea pickers, dressed all in white with baskets on their backs as they expertly nip the tea leaves off the plants. It may seem strange but even the word tea leaf now has a new meaning. Although it says exactly what it is, I’ve always thought of it as the small specs that you find in tea bags but to see it for real is surprisingly enlightening!