Ampitigoda Estate is a small farm in the highlands of Uva Province in Sri Lanka, 10 km from the planter’s town of Bandarawela. Laksirigama village, in Ambadandegama, is a village community of about 150 homes where most of the community are vegetable farmers with a scattering of small tea estates. In 2013, Sarah Callaghan went to visit a friend in Ambadandegama to stay on their tea estate and farm homestay. It changed her life.
Ampitigoda Estate was an abandoned tea estate in Laksirigama – and Sarah decided to take it on and make it a working concern again. It has been an enormous task – taking over two years to get the estate functioning and productive. The whole estate had to be collar pruned in the beginning as the tea bushes had overgrown and were badly out of shape. The ditches, which are vital for a tea estate to preserve water and fertiliser, had to be redug- and in many acres totally redone. The stone terracing also had to be repaired as this stops land erosion. The whole estate had to be re-fenced to stop the wild cows enjoying the tea. This maintenance work still goes on and the estate is currently building a rain-water harvesting system to see the estate through the drought months of July, August and September. The main planting season in the Bandarawela area is end of October through November – whenever the northeast rains arrive and make the ground soft enough to plant new tea.
Although the estate is not organic, there is very careful use of chemicals and everything is thoroughly researched before it is used – to care for the people, the land and the animals that call Ampitigoda Estate their home. There are a wealth of birds and animals that can be seen all over the estate.
For years, various previous owners had just plucked the tea and had not fertilised, pruned or cared for the tea bushes in any way, so over the years the estate had become very run down. Now the estate has come back to life and produces both tea and coffee, which is marketed under The Ceylon Company label.
Our fine Ceylon tea is traditionally picked by our team of lady tea-pickers - Kusamawattee, Laxmi Aachi, Sandia, Sirialatte - and our kangani (superintendent of tea) is Senerviratne. We currently sell two types of tea: the first is a loose black orthodox tea, which is a BOP1 (Broken Orange Pekoe first grade). We also sell teabags (twenty 2g bags in a packet), which is BOPF, the traditional Sri Lankan style (Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings). 100g of BOP1 loose tea is £3.50 (plus postage), and our teabags are £2.50 for twenty (plus postage).
Our single estate coffee is coming soon! Coffee was the first crop of Sri Lanka, before coffee blight wiped it out in the 1840s and the planters decided to try tea instead. Coffee is becoming increasingly popular in Sri Lanka, as it is a good crop for the temperate Ceylon hills and produces a complex taste with some acidity. We predict there will be more and more interest taken in single estate coffee produced in Sri Lanka.