Written by Maudy Willemen, Social Impact Consultant on the Immersion Programme, Sri Lanka February 2016.
Waking up in Sri Lanka is not difficult; you just wake up as soon as the sun rises. But this morning, when the alarm clock went off at 3.45am it was a different story. As soon as I remembered again why I had to do this, I was fresh and fruity enough to jump out of the bed.
Greenfield Farm, the company my teammate Maricar and I are working for in Sri Lanka, would take us to one of their tea plantations and would show us the process of producing tea in their farm!
Our guide for today, Mister Perera took us on a 4 -5 hour drive from Colombo, through the beautiful mountains of the Nuwara Eliya area, to the Harrington Tea Factory in Kotagala. A traditional breakfast with string hoppers and curry at the Bridge on the River Kwai would wake us up for at least a few hours to discover more about Greenfield’s projects.
The organic tea plantations we were facing were as green as your neighbours grass could be. “Only some rain ones in a while and dedication of the farmers working at the plantations is enough to keep the tea leaves healthy” says Mister Perera. No chemicals needed. Sri Lanka recently made it more difficult to use chemicals; as a farmer you can only use certain certified chemicals and they are expensive and hard to get. Good news for the organic farmers and our planet!
We started this visit with a tour around Greenfields’ latest project: dairy. We saw cows (I see cows, was I dreaming? Am I at home; in the Netherlands?) producing dairy and living happy and free in this beautiful area. The Greenfield farmer sells yoghurt to the local farmer. The compost the cows produce, they use to virtualize the soil of the tea plantation. That makes the circle round again.
Forest garden principle: all tall and medium trees are grown with the tea shrubs in order top preserve soil nutrients as well as provide shading for the plants.
When we entered the tea factory you could smell the fresh and fruitiness of the tealeaves. On barefoot we walked into a factory that, at the first side, looked as going back to the beginning of the industrial revolution. A closer look would tell us that this is a perfectly oiled machine factory.
Rough tealeaves, straight from the tea pickers, were delivered into the factory. With machines breathing air into the leaves, they dry. Three other machines downstairs are ready to separate the stem from the leaves and the bad leaves from the good leaves. Now it is time to rest and to dry. After the packaging can start. Big airtight and moisture proof bags from recycled material will be filled with tealeaves. The leaves will be shipped overseas, to the packaging factories in and around Colombo or to the auction if not sold immediately. The whole process is thoroughly checked by our guide.
It’s impressive and fascinating to see how much effort, time and dedication is necessary to have that final cup of tea at your kitchen table.
For us it was all about the tasting of course. It felt like we were at a wine tasting in French. With a lot of enthusiasm, cups were filled with tealeaves and later with boiling water (80degrees for the green teas). The smell was amazing; I’ve never smelled such an intense flavour. My favourite was the Silver Tip tea. The tea is almost creamy and it has a mild taste. So it is refreshing and, at the same time, intense too. The idea of ‘just drinking another cup of tea’ totally changes after these flavours and after seeing how the tea is produced.
The way Greenfield Farm grows her tea and the way they take care of the farmer, the plantations and the children in the community is impressive. Living in a tea estate is a different way of life. There is not much to do and not that many facilities in the neighbourhood. Greenfield Farm as an organisation is very happy to have passionate people working for them. They are part of their dream, their dream to inspire people to take care of people, planet and environment by growing organic and having ethical and environmental projects to support that. Greenfield Farm builds cottages for the farmers’ families and they build schools to educate the children. Traditionally the children of the estate community take the same job as their parents. Greenfield supports them to follow their own dreams; financially and with education. Also they educate the people working on the farm to make them more aware and capable of a green way of doing business. Their next future project will be: eco-tourism. While visiting the estate, we’ve seen cottages under construction where tourists can go to and were they will learn about organic and become more aware of problems as climate change and deforestation.
Greenfield Farm has the mission “to offer the very best certified organic fair trade produce while ensuring a sustainable lifestyle, food security and contribution to safe guarding the global environment”. Working at their office and seeing the actual story behind their brand makes me, for sure, believe that Greenfield Farm is capable of all this. And what makes me believe this is their passion, their enthusiasm to inspire people and to create that awareness. Their products are, without questioning, delicious. But, in my opinion, their story is even more great!
Thank you Greenfield Farm for this experience and thank you _SocialStarters for this opportunity!
If you would like to #JoinUs in Sri Lanka, India or Brazil as a specialist volunteer consulting to or supporting social impact clients, please visit our website for more details on types of volunteer placement and dates. We are always uploading new opportunities, and we are sure there is something to suit your requirements! We are particularly looking for people with marketing, strategy, business development, CSR, change management, product design & sales experience.