The Lumbini Tea Factory
The tea profession is old. Not the oldest (we all know what that is), but still old. It has been a part of global trade before any of us knew we were “global”. It’s still mostly transported by large boats over vast oceans. And the main preparation method of steeping leaves in boiled water has gone almost unchanged for hundreds of years. It finds its way to market any way it can, and because of this, sometimes you just have to go to the growers directly, even if they’re in Sri Lanka.
For example, here’s a fictionalized email exchange of us buying Ceylon (Sri Lankan) tea: "Hi Chaminda, it’s Bill from TeaSource. We’d like to buy 500 kilograms of the Lumbini Estate FBOP. Do you have it available?" "Hi Bill, it’s Chaminda from the Lumbini Estate. We do have that available for you. We’ll ship it out right away."
And as simple as that, a truck shows up around 10-12 weeks later (remember, most of its journey is by boat) with a pallet of tea in wooden chests with the words “Lumbini Tea” stenciled on them. One wire transfer to the Lumbini Estate later and we’ve successfully done business. That is exactly how it happens (with the addition of a lot of unpleasant bureaucracy when crossing international boarders, but let’s keep the story positive).
TeaSource has been buying tea from Lumbini estate for the last 14 years and they’ve been wonderful partners to work with. It started in 2000 when Bill was on a trip to Sri Lanka and visited their factory.
Chaminda had presented an experiment of Ceylon “Silver Needles” to the visitors (a white tea from Sri Lanka is rather controversial to most tea purists) and Bill could not help but discretely make an offer on the spot (Bill said he had to buy extra luggage just to get it home).
Since then, we’ve been regularly buying their FBOP (Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe), and now expanded to their OPA (Orange Pekoe A: a long twisted leaf style), and their “Burning Sun” FBOPF (Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings: very small leaf style – which TeaSource recently submitted and won 1st place in the North American Tea Championships in their “Breakfast Blend” category).
The Lumbini Estate and factory was started by Mr. Dayapala Jayawardane in 1984. It is located in the mountainous village of Pallegama in southern Sri Lanka. Because of his faith, Mr. Jayawardane named it “Lumbini” in honor of the birthplace of The Buddha. The factory produces almost exclusively black tea – the exception being their Ceylon Silver Needles – approximately 600,000 kg per year! They pride themselves on their skill as both a grower and manufacturer, employing 80 machine operators and 30 tea pluckers. His son, Chaminda Jayawardane, is now the CEO and generously gives his time to his international customers, like TeaSource. It’s a privilege to work so close with someone so far away, and this month we’ll proudly be featuring all our Lumbini teas.