Tea Estates – Travel For Work and Connection
By: Peter Goggi
Recently I celebrated my 60th birthday, and that number tends to give one a bit of a pause! Believe me, I don’t dwell on age, and until I see myself in a mirror, I go through my day feeling like I’m 27. Needless to say the mirror provides an extraordinary and rude awakening!
All in all, I’ve led a very fortunate life and because of my career choices early on, particularly in getting involved in the tea business, I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world, learning not only about tea but learning a lot about other cultures, countries and myself.
I want to share with you a little bit of my experiences in the hopes that it may inflict you with a bit of a travel bug and that you may be motivated to explore some of these far-flung places on your own.
In 1980, I was posted to Colombo, Sri Lanka for several months on my initial tea origin training tour. I was fortunate enough to be there a few years after the infamous “Madame B” (Bandaranaike) was out of office and before the Tamil Tiger war. I was able travel freely around this country, visiting Galle, Trincomalee, Kandy, and Pottuvil and working briefly on High Grown Tea Estates. I was working on Diyagama West and was traveling the estate with its manager, Kumar Gunasekara. He took me to a neighboring plateau called Horton Plains, which was around 7000 ft. in elevation. At the one end of the park is Worlds End, which provides a spectacular view of the southern part of the island. But what I loved most was that there was a single building housing a teahouse. One man was working there and prepared one of the most delicious cups of tea I’ve ever had. What really made the day was the wonderful and sharing conversation Kumar and I had sitting on top of the world, proving once again that tea is an incredible lubricant for friendship.
I was in Indonesia a bit more than a year ago, attending the FAO Intergovernmental Group on Tea meeting, representing the United States. The meeting took place in Bandung, a city noted for being around some of the ore beautiful tea gardens. I have visited Indonesia several times over the years and was always impressed with its natural beauty. We were lucky enough to visit one of the nearby tea gardens and it certainly brought back memories of my earlier buying days. There were many of us in the group that had never been to a tea estate, so I was lucky enough to see their first experience with a tea bush and understand the work and effort that goes into plucking the bush and manufacturing the finished product. Tea can be so simple, yet so complex!
Wuhan Province, China
I hadn’t been back to China for almost 20 years and I was fortunate enough go to the International Tea Forum in Chibi, Wuhan. I was struck by the amazing improvement in infrastructure and, as always, the friendliness of the Chinese. We were feted wherever we went and treated like Royalty.
One day, I went to the town where the Tea Road began the Tea Road was an ancient trading route that took Chinese Brick tea from this region to Russia. The have been restoring the town, and when our group arrived, it was parade and party time. What really struck me was that this was a very traditional town but EVERYONE had iPads, cell phones and notebooks. The joining of new and old is absolutely classic!
These are but three of the wonderful places that I’ve traveled in my life. Tea has always been an integral part of my travels and has truly been the source of much pleasure, learning and friendship.