A TEA-CENTRIC EXPERIENCE IN SRI LANKA IF YOU'RE LOOKING TO GET OFF THE BEATEN PATH on your next vacation, Sri Lanka just might be worth a closer look. An island nation of endless appeal located just off the Southeast coast of India, it's a destination that will charm you with its vibrant culture and jaw-dropping scenery. The economy of Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon (like the tea), is, no surprise, largely based around its longstanding relationship with the tea leaf, introduced by the British in 1824. Today, the nation is one of the world's leading producers of the ubiquitous beverage, and for travelers in search of an escape with a truly unique cultural experience, it's the Ceylon tea region that you must visit. For all it has to offer, this enchanting land remains relatively untouched by the global tourism circuit, but perhaps most alluring is the coexistence of authenticity and simple luxury, an all too rare commodity. Amidst the rolling hillsides of this region, tea plantations are increasingly becoming intertwined with quaint boutique hotels, such as the amazing resort Ceylon Tea Trails, where the local way of life serves as the focal point. "Tea Trails is in the heart of the magic world of Ceylon Tea, with its centuries old traditions," shares Malik J. Fernando, Managing Director of the resort, which feels more like a private estate than a hotel, with four charming Colonial era bungalows that were originally inhabited by tea pickers. A family-operated enterprise that began with a passion for Camellia Sinensis, the small plant that produces the leaves and buds used to make tea, Mr. Fernando's father, Merrill J. Fernando, founded Dilmah Tea in 1988, before they moved into the hospitality business. Today, Dilmah Tea is one of the largest global tea brands. Bordering the UNESCO World Heritage Central Highlands, a day at Tea Trails starts with a butler serving you "Bed Tea" and drawing a bath, before a breakfast served overlooking the mesmerizing fields. From walking through a field of tea pickers to the artisanal conversion in the factory and, of course, a tasting, guests are offered a glimpse into the production of the aromatic plant. The fare, too, revolves around the local specialty, with entrees such as Moroccan mint tea crusted lamb rump steak and apple tart with Assam tea cream anglaise for dessert. What's perhaps most special about Sri Lanka is that it represents a destination and a culture that is largely unknown to many, yet unwittingly plays a role in the lives of most. Tea, after all, is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, making it a global common denominator, and a visit to this timeless region provides an enlightening and inspiring perspective of interconnectivity.
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