The Monsoon Mountains Tea Company

The Monsoon Mountains Tea Company
Tea at World's End

Sunday, 9 October 2011

April in Nuwara Eliya

When tea leaves are thrown into a heated pot just before pouring water on them,   the aroma of fermentation that permeates the countryside from whence it originated,  suddenly bursts forth.  It transports you.

Copyright R. Mackay

    The road from Polonnaruwa, to Kandy,  up  to Nuwara Eliya,  and  the magnificence of the ever changing landscape overwhelm the soul. There,  the steaming hot jungle both grows and decomposes all at once; there, the noise of birds, fruit bats, monkeys, elephants, and cows create cacophony. And there, drifting over all that breathes, waft intoxicating perfumes that blossom from a multitude of fauna, frangipani, spices, and food.  The road winds its way from the sweaty, sticky,  humid forest, seeming deceptively sleepy in the breathtaking canopy below,  and navigates a dizzying climb of layer upon layer of hairpin turns into the Hill Country.      
This is a landscape totally enveloped; acre upon acre,  hill upon hill,  down every valley and across every horizon,  stretch carpets of rich, bright, emerald green plantations of ripening tea.  A green more potent would be difficult to find.                                 
Copyright R. Mackay

Driving along the ridges of hills  is spectacular.  The air  is clean, cool and refreshing .  Upon stopping at a roadside verge  to stretch our weary bodies ,   we encounter a  very  distinct aroma permeating the air. It  is as though  the lid  of a giant teapot full of fresh tea has been lifted,  and held  beneath  the nose. Cool, clean air infused with fermenting tea is empirically pervading , and  emanates from factories nestled in the landscape - large, long, multi-storied and many windowed bony white buildings lying interspersed among the green.

Copyright R. Mackay
After a long ascent,  a banner which reads: ‘Welcome to the Salubrious Climbs of Nuwara Eliya” hangs over the roadway . It is the Sinhalese New Year, and the  town is busy. Lanterns and lights  line the streets in multicoloured  garlands  ,  and traditional music is piped through  loudspeakers. Vendors have  crowded the streets with stalls selling goods; sweets, juices, and  festive foods. Still referred to as ‘Little England’ by the locals,  Nuwara’s architecture is distinctively Colonial , being a place to which British plantation owners  came in summer, in order to escape the stifling heat of the jungle. 

Copyright R. Mackay

The bungalow where we usually stay is a family  owned traditional guest-house, resplendent with warm rattan furniture,   where local art graces  polished,  white-washed  walls. It rests  in a quieter corner of the hills just outside town.  Wide verandas  deck the garden, where every evening we recline on long rattan armchairs, to absorb  breathtaking views over a  bottle of refreshing lager . The  music   engulfs  the landscape, the festive spirit lingers,  and we make a pot of tea. The celebratory atmosphere takes us but we are too tired to venture into town. Perhaps tomorrow. This evening, we surrender to Morpheus, and fall asleep beneath a fine canopy of mosquito netting, as the music  filters   through our dreams,  down to the  jungle  below and far, far away. 

Copyright R. Mackay

With love from an Autumnal Edinburgh

Thursday, 29 September 2011

All In Good Time

Well, it has been a couple of busy months outwith doing tea. I am sorry I haven't had a chance to blog as frequently as I would like, but the last months of summer were inundated with diversions. Interesting. Divertimenti. In Italian, it means, literally, fun. A Jolly time. Entertainment. In that case, it has lost its meaning with us and in this case perhaps distractions might be a more useful adjective to use here.

I plan to add a story here in October, now that times are more indicative to contemplation and reflection as the season changes and the colours become so much more vibrant and multilayered  than the verdant washes of high summer. The swan song of nature before she blends into the grey ice of winter, which, of course has its own stark beauty. 

I wonder over changes with friends, with life, with the universe, and imagine all our focus being on love. If we did this, if we all did this, we would have no need for wars. No need for argument. No need for senseless killing or anger towards others.What's the point? Despite our differences, is it really so hard to get along?  Is it really so hard to accept our differences and just get on with enjoying the short life we are given on this planet and share that enjoyment with others? I pledge never to throw stones. Perhaps we all should. 

It's time for a cup of tea, I think. And contemplate the fiery mantle on the trees across the way. The path of life, the place of dreams, the making of them. 

With love, from a warm and sunny high autumn Edinburgh day,
Lady Helena Fergus Strathmore.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Polonnaruwa Macaques

The lake shimmers lively in the morning sun, and the water's surface oscillates from the frisking winds and it is indeed refreshing, soulfully satisfying, to gulp in the air in long smooth breaths deep into the belly, the aromas of wet stone wet earth-sweet surface of the waters carried by breezes across the ruins and into the trees. The ruins. Edifices and temples, palaces and places of worship. 

Polonnaruwa is an ancient city; encircled by six kilometers of walls in its younger livelier days, when people lived here by hundreds. And, the 'lake' itself, a man made reservior at least 13 kilometers long, a source of water for the inhabitants of that city, host to a number of pipes irrigating the nearby rice paddies and feeding other systems as far afield as Trincomalee, in its heyday. Rippling in mid morning light, shorelines festooned with reeds and lilies, it lies as a sanctuary to bird and beast alike, teeming with wetland wildlife - kingfishers, egrets, bee eaters, lizards, snakes, and monkeys.

She has been following the the flowers.These fascinating small pinkish pompom blossoms nestled in the grassy stubble has led her away from the track gingerly she picks her way across and through the trees, always looking down, always aware of these delicate plants growing like creepers so close to the ground, compound leaves radiating from the centre, looking much like mimosa, but highly sensitive to the touch. These compound tendrils close to the touch, like a domino effect from tip to stem, she notices how they lie open as wide flat 'V' shapes shutting quickly one after the other, into rows of 'I' . Hands coming together in prayer. Closing to form an Ayubowan.

In this quiet, tranquil place she makes her way, sometimes bending low to touch these fascinating flowers, just to watch them but feels it wrong in a way, to tease them so. They are everywhere, these little leaves and delicate firework flowers, and she finds it difficult to avoid not stepping on them.  and she avoids stepping on them as best she can. She trips along this quiet sacred grove always looking down until she can go no further. She is stopped by the back wall of a temple, low wall, among the many trees, and the wall is dancing. The carved animals stand still in bas relief -  a captive audience to these monkeys that suddenly burst forth about the trees and rocks, branches and stone, arriving and thundering alive in defensive chorus over the sleeping earth. 
They dance, they chatter, they squawk like crows in chorus they scream.  They leap about shaking the branches, shivering the delicate pink flowers, or sit still growling baring sharp yellow teeth. They bandy about back and forth across the temples and the trees, creating. Rude, offensive noises with their voices and bristling hair on their bodies their toques doubling in size, screeching and crying they seem to shake the sky in their ire of invasion. She stands stock still, watching. And as she watches, their screams become louder and more deafening, or so it seems.  They can feel her astonishment, read her fear.

She did not expect the monkeys. Perhaps, if she had expected them she might have been more assertive. But still, they looked such a contradiction with their funny toques giving rise to a comic appearance despite their anger at her intrusion. Of course they are harmless. They have interacted with humans over centuries, especially here.  But she doesn't really know this and is unsure. She could laugh at them. She could laugh. But then, you never know, they might just do something - well nasty. No not really, not really nasty. Perhaps just being loud to give the impression that they might leap upon her from above - after all, they had the advantage. Just to frighten her. Shout loud to frighten her because they know it works. They've done it before.  They look ready to spring upon her. Mothers with their young with fear and anger in their eyes. Shouting. Babies clinging cringing and afraid of the shouting, afraid of that thing down there looking up at them wide eyed maybe amused. Maybe, maybe if mummy shouts loud enough, that thing will go away. 

'Okay. Okay.' She looks around at them still shouting. 'I'm leaving. Just settle down. I'm not going to hurt you.' 

And knowing it to be a very trusting gesture, she turns back towards the path she ventured from, about face, with her back to them, walking away.  
Their noise dies down. Her companion comes out of nowhere.
'What was all that about?' 
'Oh.' She sighs, smiling, 'Just monkeys.' 

They walk to the shores of the shining lake glinting like hammered silver in the sun from rippling breezes.  It's so huge, this lake, like a sea. A freshwater sea. And the water looks so inviting that she just wants to slip quietly down these ancient stone steps, and become one with the waves.

 Greetings from a very rainy Carrbridge, Helena Fergus Strathmore.

N.B. Unfortunately, I never took any photos of the mimosa pudica. I thank Wikipedia for the use of the image, as well as the toque macaque and it's young. The picture of the other monkeys on the ground is my own, and was taken at Polonnaruwa, but not where they were shouting at the temple.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Monsoon Mountains Tea Company.

This was something which had been tweaking my subconscious for a long time. For years, I had been studying tea. The dream of a tea shop was never very far away in my mind and it was a vision I always kept before me and still do. I cling to this vision. I know exactly what it will look like inside, and out, and in some cases, when I walk about Edinburgh, I am consciously looking now, where it would best suit to have a premises.
I see myself in there, behind the counter, serving tea to people. Shelves filled row on row with labelled canisters of Single Estate Ceylons, Darjeelings, teas from exotic places in the world, like Venezuela, Viet Nam, or Hawaii.

And I envision them, people quietly sitting at the tea bar, sampling teas and I am engaging with them, or, they keep to themselves, which is just as wonderful, in a seat, one of only a few,  drinking a pot of their favourite, reading a book, or perhaps perusing our own collection for an interesting read. Quiet ambient music floating through the air a light gossamer veil,  that doesn't grate the ear or the nerve but is soft and lingering.

And the best I can do for now, at least until the tea shop becomes a premises, is offer the closest on line equivalent to my vision that I can. It is what I intend to evoke, what needs to be evoked. Not to draw people in by hook or by crook, but to make then feel very very special, and, drawn to the tea, as I am. That, in this tea space, whether it is on line, and one day,  a shop of my dreams made reality, there is a feeling as though one has just entered a sanctuary of peace and calm. A place of well being. Where water is sacred. Where tea is mighty, and I am its humble servant. 

Wishing you well from a cold and cloudy Edinburgh, Helena Fergus Strathmore. 
                    Be prepared for the Polonnaruwa Macaques! Coming Soon!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Pile on the Cinnamon

We keep a jar of raw cane molasses sugar in the cupboard. 
The reason why we keep it in a jar is in order to keep it well sealed and moist,  that it doesn't harden, because when this sugar hardens, it is as tough as granite. It's delicious sugar, and we usually buy it at Christmas, for making the cakes and puddings it adds just that extra bit of flavour to.

But today is the first of June, and, here in blustery stormy Scotland it feels like November has come early. I hear 'The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald' in my mind as I listen to the gales roaring through the flu and rattling the windows, bending the trees outside. The green grey slate blue grey dusty rose grey canopy of cloud hangs ominously low threatening rain and sleet. And here in the mountains am I,  working away with tea and catching up on webnews, tea news and vamping our website into June and other tea treats, thinking, gosh, it's rather cold and a warm pick me up would really do here. 
Tea, of course, and toast. Not just any tea. Today, I thought, is the perfect day for some very soothing stress relieving Wijaya Estate FBOP Ex SP. What with the wind outside and the cats curled up sweetly together and everything looking so comfortable inside, could be better than to have this particular tea. 

Wijaya is an estate of renown in the Ruhunu region of Sri Lanka, and is a low country tea. It is a characteristically black tea but the amber liquor is just so appealing. This tea is full flavoured with a gorgeous robust burst of summer citrus , lime citrus and has the aroma of walking into a room filled with chocolate fondant. June is bustin' out all over, and, this tea bursts into the month of midsummer with full flavoured full bodied celebration. And the health benefits are super; Leading scientists at UK Universities have discovered that Ruhunu teas are extremely beneficial for reducing levels of stress hormones. And so this tea is the one after a tough day. It really is very exquisite. But with making this tea, came a hankering for cinnamon toast. But not just any ordinary cinnamon toast. I have cinnamon from Sri Lanka too ( what else is new) because Sri Lanka doesn't just grow the best tea in the world, but also the best cinnamon comes from this gem in the salubrious sea. This Sri Lanka. I like to make cinnamon toast with brown sugar. It just adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the entire effect, and today, I had no brown sugar in the house. Just this molasses pure raw cane sugar, and, I thought to myself, well, it tastes magnificent in Christmas cakes and puddings . It goes well with cinnamon. 

 The toast needs to be buttered well. A good sweet unsalted butter is a must, and ought to be spread on the toast while it is still hot so it melts through, and heap the sugar on generously, spreading it with the butter as you go. Hungry yet? And then, just pile on the cinnamon. Pile it on. Be very generous because the molasses sugar is rather robust in flavour. Pour the tea. Sit back and let the weather happen outside. In here, you are in paradise. Cinnamon. Cinnamon and serendipity. Wijaya Estate tea. I sit here writing away, and when I began, I wanted to create an entry about the Toque Macaques of Polonnaruwa. Well, there has to be another time for monkeys. Right now, I am feeling rather transported. Perhaps Wijaya is doing the right Ruhunu and taking good care of my stress levels. 

Whatever it is, I am simply away. I begin to feel as though there are sprites in this tea. Tea sprites, that whisk you away somewhere for an hour and you've actually been gone seven days. 
Now, I can greet the day with the sunniest warmest of glows. Let those gales rage outside. Let the hail pound away at the windows. Let the wild winds roar.  Here, we have tea, and cinnamon.

Greetings from a blustery Edinburgh, 
Helena Fergus Strathmore

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

At Loolecondera

Today is Vesak Poya. My mind takes me to the sun and jungle, to the rain and wind , to the morning mist that cobweb clings its refreshing veils of wet upon the body as it works its way to waking up the soul, to the hills and mountains covered in cypress and pine and rhododendron,  all the while, remembering the sweet exquisite perfume and edible fragrance of Frangipani flowers. 

And the lights and especially the lanterns of Vesak kiss the land like millions and millions of fireflies big and small, and the countryside at night glitters.

Today, all over the Buddhist world, people celebrate the life of the Buddha from birth to Nirvana with lights and lanterns decking houses, lighting up gardens private and public alike. I have it from a good friend in Colombo that the days are bright and warm and sunny now, and the city is festive and beautifully arrayed in the spendour of lanterns and lights.

And wherever you travel in Sri Lanka at this time, there is celebration everywhere you go, from the very serious to the joyful and fun. 

But there is especially one Vesak Poya which I just cannot forget because it was something not that I had experienced, but found written, on a placard at the Loolecondera plantation.

Loolecondera is an endearingly special place and I regard it with depth of a fondness which I can't rightly place. I walked about this tea plantation, wondering, alone with my thoughts in the peace and quiet of a hot spring day and it was not too dry. The early mists of the morning still hovered and clung to the green, which, in the heat, lent a sweet pungency to the atmosphere. Especially that of tea. Tea and sweet earth and tea and flowers and something familiar like the sweet aroma of lime tree blossoms filled me with such potency that I felt as though I was in a dream, walking there. 

Sunshine, Saris, they
Pick tea, glinting, like gems in
An emerald sea.

Here I was at Loolecondera and feeling rather overwhelmed. This is the very first tea plantation in all of Sri Lanka. James Taylor planted the first tea bushes here in 1867. And, to this day, tea is still being plucked from some of the original bushes which he planted as seedlings, and sent with rest of the harvest to the Colombo auctions . Imagine sipping a cup of tea that connects you to the hand of James Taylor himself! If one ever has the good fortune of travelling to Sri Lanka, go to Loolecondera and stay a while. Say nothing. Only feel. And on this Vesak Poya, I would like to add the words of one I had copied down because when I read this on  it's modest signpost there, no one could have written a better, more thoughful piece than this stranger who has touched the hearts of all who have been there: 

Ode to James Taylor

I felt the presence in his own domain
As of a lord and master, or power under God,
Thinkest not of me as having left
For once again, I see the beautiful
Green tops of Loolecondera tea plants,
Standing in endless array unmoved
By the strong winds, and fearless
Of the strange sounds they make
Often shy when touched
By tender fingers of a loving hand.

May you all protect the cherished land
The salubrious environment and what
It contains – I too, riding on
High clouds that float from over
The sacred Sri Pada ( Adam's Peak) shower
My blessings and protection to all
But those who ravish the sacred soil.
  • thoughts from James Taylor picked up by a sensitive friend on the Wesak Night of 6 May, 1993.

       A Very Happy Vesak Day to everyone. And may the Universe be with you always.  
     with love from a cloudy cool Edinburgh on Vesak Day, 17 May, 2011, 
    Helena Fergus-Strathmore

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Tea in Glen Lyon

Rannoch Station

'I would like to go to Rannoch Station' says I, when husband Neil asked if Friday turned out to be a good day, where we ought to go for a run in the car. I had never been to Rannoch Station before. 

And so, on Thursday night, of the 28th April, we got the gear together, items for tea and coffee making, frying pans for the bacon rolls, the primus stove , and, the following morning  saw us rising at six am and to the local 24 hour supermarket for seven am to buy supplies for the day.

We had a 5litre bottle of drinking water with us, and our first stop was at Loch Tummel forest park where we found a lovely table , and as Neil proceeded to make bacon rolls I made coffee for him and a pot of tea for myself. Loose tea. Just regular good old Yorkshire loose tea.
I had, after all the time I have lived in Scotland, never been to the Queen's View. This lookout point has a vista of Shiehallion looking westwards to Loch Rannoch over Tummel, the two bodies of water meeting and almost looking like the map of Scotland itself. Quite breathtaking and, although the place itself is associated these days with Queen Victoria, it is actually named the Queen's View after Queen Isabelle, The wife of Robert the Bruce, who's favourite place this was. Lovely, to be standing in the place of such historic footprints. Guarded by the slopes of Shiehallion.

Shiehallion. The heart of Scotland, and a most majestic peak, rises from the foothills a perfect cone,looking deceptively smooth sided and seen from miles around. The summit slants up to the sky, a pyramid formed by nature and truly majestic. Like a crown. 

Rannoch Station  is a beautiful little railway station one could say in the middle of no where at the end of the road that runs along the shores of the loch, through some wild terrain,of  rocks of various shapes and sizes strewn about the hills as though tossed by giants having a go at who could throw a rock the farthest. It reminded me so of Kalevipoeg, our own Estonian rock tossing hero. 

Glen Lyon

We all have our own variants of discus throwers, it seems. These hills about Rannoch are not so high, because we are at the line of the land that borders with the great moor, and the three sisters of Glencoe dominate the distant skyline. But what lies between this and the Glencoe route is a sea of bog. The railway line which runs through it has been built on this sponge, by layers and layers of packing, Neil says, filling and packing, to lay the railway line so it would not sink into the moor. The bogwater, reflecting oily methane slicks of Newton Rings and the aroma of peat and wild mountain winds rather reminded of something out of Tolkien. I looked behind me along the track that runs up to Mallaig, and saw hills like those of Rohan and before me, the dead marshes and Glencoe looming in the distance. Not Mordor, of course not - only the three sisters, and the Pap of Glencoe, thrusting upwards like the knuckles of a fist to the sky.

We spent a good deal of time wandering about the station; a very pretty station, before heading back along the same road to Loch Rannoch but, turning at Gaur to drive along the south shore and make our way to Glen Lyon. We thought it would be lovely to stop by Carie and have lunch, which we did. And it was at Carie, before we left, that Neil dipped the bottle into the rushing cataract and filled the now empty bottle. I was amazed at how clear the water was. Slightly peat coloured which is to be expected, but the cleanest I had ever seen. And he promised we would stop in Glen Lyon and make some tea with it, but first, we had to go to Fortingall. 

In Fortingall, there grows a Yew, the oldest Yew in all of Europe.  It used to have a girth of 54 feet. It's been protected by a wall for may years now, as it has been victim to vandalism even burning in the past, but it is still magnificent. And Fortingall itself is a place out of time, where thatched cottages line the road and wander into laneways of this small village; just the houses, the church, and the Yew tree, all at peace, a quiet sleepy hamlet.
Fortingall, GlenLyon

It is the most beautiful glen I have ever been in. Yes, for me, it even rivals Glenshee and Glen Doll. The fairy folk live here , strong, ancient fairy folk, Thomas the Rhymer fairy folk, in every tree under every stone and invisible Naiads in the running river, dancing everywhere around the green men winding about in the leaves from tree to tree.

We stopped the car at a quiet spot just over an old stone bridge. There is a large memorial cairn standing high on the other side and the river cascades in a small gorge decked with Douglas fir and tall tall straight larches in their pale spring green veils. The music of water rushing in the land of the mountain and the flood. I roamed about the river's edge in half a dream and took photographs from the bridge while Neil made the tea. And I felt a presence there, a very very strong sense of belonging.

Glen Lyon
And how perfect it all was. Tea in Glen Lyon, made with the River Water, and we drank it deliciously beneath the pines, the sun just glistening gold speckles in the late afternoon, gold, tea gold, water gold, gold river water. We had all we needed. Nothing was wanting. 

Greetings from Edinburgh in Springtime,
Helena Fergus - Strathmore

Friday, 29 April 2011

It all began.....

We have an old brass samovar from Tula.

It is round and fat like a good healthy babushka, with a big beautiful petal belly round and voluptuous, and it was only a centrepiece when I was growing up because the coal funnel had gone missing, and we couldn't use it really. 

Little Bear Lake
It was made in 1910, and grandma Helena, my namesake, had taken it with her on her back almost, when the Russians came into Estonia and she, her husband and her little brood left. They were on a list you see, and my great Uncle Hartius - he vanished. Vanished away into the depth of the Gulag. The voice of many echoed in the words of Solzhenitsyn and nobody to this day knows what happened to him. He just simply disappeared. 

There is an old photograph of Uncle Hartius. 
He is dressed in Jacobean costume staring out dark eyed dark haired and handsome in a very Tyrone Power sort of way and looking somewhat like him too, poised proudly and severely in a role I never witnessed but see still in this photo, the ghost of him now in the snow swept dunes of Siberia....He was a fine actor in his day they said. He was with his family on the train ready to leave when he just had to go back to the house for someone. 
And nobody ever saw him again. 
But grandma had the samovar which ended up in our house and every Easter, it gets a fine polish and Easter eggs, their shells dyed with onion skin , their shells all marble glowing and shiny with a rub of butter, are placed around it in the centre of the Easter table surrounded by the feast. Shining in glory and of other days gone by, and hopefully those tortured souls in the mists of the north of Baikal, in peace now.

When did it all begin? 

I had my first taste of Ceylon tea at Grandma's. And Grandad used to design labels for Wissotsky before the war. She used to make it in that very samovar from Tula when it was still in working order, even though by the time I was ready to try some the samovar was already out of service but still majestic, mysterious and basking in the polish of a bygone era. Gosh, Tolstoy was still alive when grandmother started drinking tea out of that samovar!

As a child I liked my tea with rich creamy milk and very sweet. Sometimes, I still make it this way, just to trip down memory lane a little.
When did it all begin?
When I was very young, and had the best loose tea at grandmothers? 
She only ever made loose tea. And it was always excellent loose tea.
When my mum used to give me Earl Grey tea as a child and tell me stories of Ceylon? 
It was Ceylon then, but I was very young and I remember the day when she became Sri Lanka and it always did something to me inside, and perhaps the pressing need to go there started somewhere way back then, and mum used to pull out the atlas and show me where it was and in some atlases there would be pictures, and plenty of tea plantations. Mum grew up in England after the war. She knew more about the history of tea than I ever did and told me all kinds of stories and always made me lovely cups of tea. And in our family, we always had good tea.

I lived out east for a time, teaching and running an Art department in Riyadh where I made so many life long friends and lost a few who were never destined to be. Good tea was hard to find unless you knew where to go. I always had fine tea at my Saudi friends houses and wondered where they got it from, and never thought to ask. At the supermarkets, there were few good teas on the shelves and the usual run of the mill bag tea was just terrible. And the need for good tea awakened my palate.

And so, it all began with  the search for excellent tea which brought me to the salubrious hills of Sri Lanka.

Well, that, and Michale Ondaatje. I suppose in some ways I have him to blame too. It all began when I read Running in The Family while I was in Art College, which so inspired me that I actually made an illustration for The Passions of Lalla. She was delicately carved into a block of linoleum, waves of water mingling with waves of her own hair becoming waves and her face serene as an angel in sleep floating with the monsoon water, far, far away. But tea came into my hands and head before the book ever did. The book itself merely made me want to go to the tea.....

And, from there, I never turned back. Tea and Sri Lanka had a way of quietly and quickly seeping into my marrow, like a marvellous perfume, and I was hooked. 

And then, I met Lalith, by the way of becoming pen pals through the advent of the internet and a mutual passion for tea and  things Sri Lankan. Lalith himself is from Sri Lanka. We often spoke and still talk about tea together and share tea thoughts and ideas about different types of tea, and my knowledge base began to grow; Lalith is an exceptionally fine teacher and no matter how modest he is, or however he looks at it, I will always consider him my first and foremost mentor in tea education even though my knowledge grew on a very casual basis at first just because we enjoyed talking tea. Lalith is a tea expert. He used to manage a plantation in Nuwara Eliya ( one of my favourite haunts there - I have many) and is a tea sommelier par excellence. 

It was Lalith, who runs his own tea business now, who said to me a few years ago when we met for a cup at Betty's Tea Rooms in York, that I ought to start a tea business. And eight months later, The Monsoon Mountains Tea Company was conceived and, eleven months after that, it has now been born.

And in many ways, it all began with a number of factors. 

But I shall never forget the mystique surrounding that samovar from Tula. 

Greetings from Sunny Edinburgh
Helena Fergus-Strathmore