The Monsoon Mountains Tea Company

The Monsoon Mountains Tea Company
Tea at World's End

Sunday, 28 May 2017

A Link to our Funding Page

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/MonsoonMountainsaTeaCompany



FLOODING DEVASTATION

People of flood affected areas of Sri Lanka need your help right now. At least 103 people have been killed and nearly 500,000 displaced in Sri Lanka following flooding and landslides triggered by monsoon rains affecting the country at the moment. A further 113 people are missing and the toll keeps rising.
14 out of the 25 districts have been affected by floods. 52,503 families and 200,382 persons. We at the Monsoon Mountains Tea Company are aiming to donate all profits from tea sales as well as direct donations to help with aid. Your contribution will help relief workers provide drinking water, foodstuffs, and emergency medical supplies as well as towels and bedding. 
We at the Monsoon Mountains Tea Company and Sri Lanka are selling Fairtrade Ceylon Teas and are donating all profits from our tea sales as well as donations to help with the aid effort. We are working in close partnership with Flood Relief Aid workers at a grass roots level. 
Every gram of tea sold goes to the peoples of Sri Lanka affected by this devasting flooding for a second year in a row now. 
Ceylon Tea is the cleanest and by far the finest tea in the world. 
Many thanks and blessings,
Rebecca Mackay,Proprietor,The Monsoon Mountains Tea Company
www.teahills.co.uk


Friday, 5 May 2017

More than Just a Tea Bag

I wear a number of hats.
I teach art and music and at present, I am reading Ancient Classics for a BAHons degree with the Open University. Tea is one of my hats. I have had a lifelong love affair with tea since I was about six years old.

I have made a study of tea for over 30 years; about its history, manufacture, and the special regions of Sri Lanka where Ceylon Tea comes from.  I also work as a tea taster and importer of Ceylon Tea with fifteen years of tasting experience behind me now. The Monsoon Mountains Tea Company is, for me, a labour of love from which I make little profit and cater to a very discerning clientele. I am most interested in sharing my love of tea and spreading that love.

I love sharing tea lore. I love sharing tea. I love exploring the Cha Dao. Tea is transubstantiative. Meditative. Inspirational. It sends me into landscapes where Life feels very zen. 

photo copyright R. Mackay 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Visiting Sri Lanka

Out in Sri Lanka for the month of April.
Not having been there for at least 20 years, it felt as though I was coming home.
I am still distilling so many sights and sounds and so many experiences,  feeling as though we have only just arrived home yesterday.
We saw wild elephants in forests and in parks, we clambered over Horton Plain on a sunny morning, early, watching the sun kissed dew like silver spread across the grasses. Missing the song of the Koel bird. The Music of the Magpie Robin, the pop pop pop pop of a Barbet I can't quite recall the name of.... and watchig Sambar deer from a distance. The roar of the ocean, the spindrift salting your skin....the chorus of frogs across the valleys and in our courtyard pond screaming, such a loud voice for such a little thing, that liked to live in the kitchen.
I am still there.
I am not here.
And yet there's new teas in.

Lots of work to do. New season teas fresh from the farm, and already going about . Pedro Estate, Lumbini and New Vithanakande just to name a few.

New friends, faces, smiling greeting, and the jokes we shared and the laughing.

Tasting teas  and marvelling at the flight of the tea auctions in Colombo. Busy, bustling, energetic city in the heat. I do love Colombo. The strand of Galle Face Green. Go! Go to this place, immerse yourself. You come alive.

But most of all, making such wonderful new friends. Building bonds with those already known. I felt as though we had all known each other even a lifetime ago.

I am still there, I am not here.  Not quite.

Copyright R. Mackay




All photos within this blog are copyright of Rebecca Mackay. If you wish to use an image, please contact Rebecca Mackay for permission. Many Thanks. 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Passing Thoughts.

 

Copyright R.Mackay

The first tea estate I ever saw was on the road from Kandy to Gampola. We were driving south to Nuwara Eliya when we stopped by the roadside to buy some fruit from a vendor, just off the side of a hill where tea was growing. It was a cloudy day, but really very fresh and, it had been raining so that the aromas were even more acute because of the moisture in the air.

I left the car because I wanted to stretch my legs but also have a look at all the tea plants, with all their new growth so bright yellow green, lining the hillside. It was a fairly steep hill and there were, on the far end, a line of women plucking the tea and you could hear them talking amongst each other even though they were far away and didn't nortice me taking a photo.

I went to the edge of the tea garden and just admired the bushes, wanting to touch but my better judgement said no; they were so crispy and fresh, so edible looking. It's that crunchy green salad look, and, you can just taste the juices as you imagine yourself munching away on fresh tea leaves. No, I have never tried a fresh tea leaf, but I wouldn't be averse to it although, I doubt I would make a salad of any kind from them, rather, a fresh cup of hot brew, but then you never know how a bit of leaf might go with some strawberries and blueberries and spinach tossed together with freshly flaked coconut in a honeyed balsamic vinaigrette.....something I ought to try when next I'm in Sri Lanka.

And if you ever see this salad anywhere, know that it is my invention, written here for all time. If anyone ever does try it though, please let me know how it turns out, but they must be fresh tea leaves just plucked off the bush. Nothing else will do. And I wonder if my friend Beverly at Amba might give this a try.....They could add it to their collection of recipies. They make the most wonderful preserves. And now I hear they are also roasting coffee at Amba. Coffee is being produced in Sri Lanka once again. How amazing is that! Coffee plants are growing again! But I will never turn away from tea. Tea is sacred. The water in the cup, the leaf, the ritual. Water is sacred, tea is sacred. And with that, it's time to make a blend.

White tea with Coconut.
I have a silver tips tea which comes from the Glentilt Estate. Blending this with just a hint of coconut and perhaps some fresh lime flowers or orange flowers is so beautiful... or maybe even a touch of Frangipani. I would need Frangipani petals though, and I don't live in a country where these are freshly available. It looks as though it's time to experiment to achieve just the right balance, even with roses, so abundant in the gardens of Nuwara Eliya.

And so I drift and it makes me think of Peradeniya. I  miss the Royal Botanic Garden at Peradeniya. I used to love walking among the orchids there and being a total trainspotter, but with flowers, writing down species and trying my best to remember the Latin Taxonomy....but that's all long ago and forgotten now. It was a dreamy whimsy way of life back then that I crave, because the humans of the world today are losing their civility, and just to breathe and touch the reality of earth, barefoot, in the sand, feel the tide, marvel at our geology, our oceans, appreciate the beauty of the flora, respect the fauna, that is what I need.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012



















Haikus To My Mother

You used to make me
The most exquisite paper dolls
With your dear hands -

You used to bake us beautiful cakes
And Make us
endless cups of tea,

You used to hold us
When the frightening thunder cracked
The window panes;

And you'd sing to us,
With your bright red piano,
Fingers kissing keys.

And you danced with dad
that never ending waltz of life
among the trees

by the Old Forests of pine,
you gently led us down
light sandy lanes.

And, those kisses, we
caress you in our love, through
Simple wedding bands,

You are our spirit,
Our light when darkness falls,
Our angel of the skies,
touched by loving hands.

with love to you, dearest mother, always.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Samanalakanda

Artwork: Watercolour, Adam's Peak, R. Mackay

Those winter days, snow was something that happened far away somewhere else. Where I was, we had sand and sea, we had palm trees with their leaves brushing one another in the trade winds, sounding like a thousand silk taffeta skirts swishing across the ballroom of the sky; jungle thunder blowing bellows of animal occupation in juxtaposing harmonies, and choruses of  monkey chatter and birds, greeting the dawning days with song. Those beautiful red bellied blue blacked kingfishers resting by easy flowing rivers and banks of ancient tanks, bee eaters, nestled among the noise of humanity; the porridge of cars and bicycles ploughing their way over damp soft sandy roads and nubbly tarmac.
We had decided to spend Christmas in Nuwara Eliya, and thought to make an adventure of it by climbing Adam’s Peak on Christmas Eve, to be at the summit in time to watch the sunrise on Christmas Morning.  I can’t recall all that much about Christmas Eve, other than my anticipation of looking forward to the climb and being preoccupied with it. I do believe much of the day was spent relaxing, reading about, and preparing for, the climb. That evening, we stuffed ourselves with a good curry, and with our packs stuffed with sweets, chocolate, nuts and water, by ten pm we were ready to leave.  It was all rather spooky driving about the small Sri Lanka Hill Country roads in the dark; the odd headlights of distant cars dancing through the landscape like fireflies, illuminating their paths here and there.  And in the night, ever slowly drawing nearer, one could see the serpentine ladder of lights climbing up like the tail of a comet rising to the moon, or of fairy lights dangling from the stars, the lights of the stairway to the summit of Sri Pada, hanging in suspended animation as though it was an entrance into another dimension.
My heart leapt when I first saw this. The surrounding night and landscape were so dark that it all melted into one black sheet and one couldn’t really make the outline of the mountain against the sky at all.
Samanalakanda. The mountain where butterflies go to die. Like the great migrations of butterflies one imagines the entire mountain from the river beds at the foot to its peak in the clouds, oscillating from millions of multicoloured wings. I was that butterfly, although very much alive, climbing, climbing, under the rows of lights, step by step, wings of feet working. At the foot, the steps are set wide apart, such as the stairs one sees in medieval castles that allow horses to ascend easily with their riders. But as the incline became steeper, the steps became narrower. I was part of that ladder of lights now, and it didn’t seem that long before I felt that we were already quite high. But time is a strange passing in the inky blackness of forest and night, and I couldn’t be sure how high we had climbed and in what amount of time and, it didn’t really matter; I was far too excited to be wondering about time.    
We must have been at least half way up when I felt it. All was so pitch black on either side of me; the landscape, save for the lighted path, had disappeared into pots of inky blackness and looking right or left, I could see nothing but space, although I could hear frogs and crickets singing, it was as though I was lifted up. I could see dots of lights twinkling  a all round the landscape and, being a mountainous region I couldn’t distinguish the lights from the stars in the sky, and those of houses, as they blended into one entity. I sensed a slow back and fore rocking motion. I felt dizzy. My knees went weak and wobbly. My body froze. The ground below me disappeared and here I was, on this narrow path and floating in a void. And I could not move. I panicked inside myself and I wondered if I could make it to the top or if I ought to turn back now. Everything felt suspended. The sky felt suspended. The earth, the lights, the path, felt suspended in vertigo for a brief moment. I could not see the ground either left or right of the path and only stars below and stars across and stars above me, on my narrow path in outer space. As quickly as the panic inside me left, it was replaced with an exhilarating sense of wonder, and the lines of Ungaretti came to mind:
“M’illumino d’immenso”
It cannot be translated into English without losing something of the magic of the meaning. Some things just need to remain as they are.
“Is everything ok?” my companion asked.
“yes.” I mouth it, semi whisper it, semi say it, feeling my eyes huge with wonder. “Just look around you. “ I say. “It’s gorgeous. You can hardly make out the tops of the other mountains because they are below us now, and all those lights of houses, they’re all mixing with the stars. Don’t you feel as though you’re floating?” And I turned to continue our ascent. No wonder, I thought, no wonder it was called The Stairway to heaven.
To give the weary skywalker some respite, the way up (or down) is dotted at intervals with kiosks selling tea and other sundries; glucose, sweets and other snacks.  We stopped at one of these to take a rest, and buy some tea.  There were shelves lined with glasses which the vendor dips into boiling water to sterilise them, and , a strong black tea is poured in along with some sweetened condensed milk and syrup.  It sounds revolting, for sure, especially to the connoisseur and perhaps I am doing myself a disservice saying that I loved the flavour. But it was made really well, with very good and really strong tea, and together with the syrup and sweet milk, it morphs into an almost different beverage entirely.  Done right, it is actually surprisingly lovely. Satiny, silky in the mouth, velvety even, and rich, and for a climb such as this, right comforting.  With it we ate some chocolate, and as for me, the rapture of that moment of vertigo still with me, it was pure manna from heaven. 
“So here it is,“ I say, “ you get some jaggery, and melt it with butter until you get a nice toffee. Add nuts, like pecans. Any nuts will do but pecans are best. Pour this over a slab of dark chocolate, let it set. Make a pot full of this here sweet tea, and when the chocolate’s ready, indulge. “ It rather had the flavour of a carnival sweet.
Re-energised, we continued. I loved the air. I loved the air becoming so crispy and cool up here, so fresh and pure. We were, after all, climbing to 7’360 feet or so, of mountain.  I loved the elevated feeling of suspension, the gift of stars.  And, about half an hour before sunrise, we made it to the top.  There was a small kiosk there, outfitted with a postal service, selling post cards of the summit, there was the the shrine of the great footprint, and people milling about waiting for daylight, that special time when the shadow of the peak is cast against the mist by the rising sun.  It was Christmas morning; and what better way to send greetings to my family in Canada than by means of a post card written on Christmas Day, on the top of Adam’s peak. It was Christmas morning. It was cold up there and having posted my cards at the kiosk, we walked together to watch for the shadow of the mountain against the rising morning mist and cloud, to appear like a ghost as the sun rose.  And in the milky cold crisp morning of that Christmas Day, we hugged each other. Merry Christmas!  We hugged and greeted each other, and, all was as it should be, even without the snow. 



A Very Happy Christmas , and all the best for 2012 and the year of the Dragon, from a golden sunset Edinburgh, Helena Fergus Strathmore.