Passionately led by tea legend and hands-on owner Malinga Herman Gunaratne (“Mr Herman”), the Handunugoda Tea Estate also produces rubber, cinnamon and coconut. It is just one mile from the coast and beautiful tropical trees and shrubs shade the tea bushes.
While this is not the first idyllic tea estate we have visited it is certainly one of the most impressive. In addition to producing a range of black teas using vintage machinery salvaged from factories that had closed down, Mr. Herman oversees the production of one of the world’s most expensive teas – his “Virgin White Tea”. Never touched by the naked hand (to avoid the aromas contained in a person’s natural body oils being transferred to the tea) the pickers who gather the leaves for this tea wear gloves and use small nail scissors to carefully collect the purest of buds. Whereas a tea picker on a large estate would collect more than 20 kg a day for a black tea, the highly skilled workers who gather the leaves for the Virgin White tea collect just a few grams.
While we bought this tea because we loved the flavour, one of the reasons it is so popular is because of the media attention it received when first launched in August 2009. A request to purchase some from a middle-eastern royal family led to an analysis of the tea being carried out at the Swiss laboratory SGS. The results showed that the tea contains almost 11% antioxidants.
Often billed as the world’s most expensive tea, with production limited to a maximum of 15 kg a month, this has to be one of the world’s rarest teas. Only available direct at the Handunugoda Tea Estate or from a very few select purveyors of fine teas, it is only because Mr Herman likes the fact that we share his passion and values that he sells us small amounts to share with you! And because it is so special it comes packed in exactly the amount you need for one cup (3 g, which can be infused four times).
Advice from Mr Herman: Please do not touch the tea with your bare hands! Use 3 g of tea per cup (one teaspoon). Bring the water, ideally spring water with a PH-Value of 6 – 7 to just before boiling point. Infuse the tea for five minutes and enjoy. For the second infusion let the tea infuse for 7 minutes. Mr. Herman recommends 10 minutes for the third infusion and a full 15 minutes for the fourth infusion.