Ceylon Tea grown in Uda Pussellawa
Wedged between the Kandy and Uva districts on the eastern slopes of the hill country, Uda Pussellawa is a small, thinly-populated district almost entirely dedicated to tea cultivation. It boasts no large towns, and part of its uncultivated area is occupied by the Hakgala Strict Natural Reserve, which rises up the peak of the same name to a height of around 2000m (6,400ft). The region is famous for rare wildlife and exotic plant species; leopard still roam its forested hills, and have even been spotted on its plantations from time to time. The Uda Pussellawa region includes the sub-districts of Maturata, Ragala and Halgranoya.
Due to its location, Uda Pussellawa enjoys climatic conditions very different from those of the western plantation regions. As with neighbouring Uva, the district receives the bulk of its weather from the northeast monsoon system, which waters the eastern slopes of the hill country between November and January. The climate is mostly wet and misty, with the Hakgala region receiving rain on an average of 211 days every year. However, the district also enjoys some ‘blow-over’ from the southwest monsoon between June and September. Having deposited their rains on the western slopes of the hill country, these monsoon winds turn desertly dry by the time they cross the central watershed.
Uda Pussellawa estates thus enjoy not one but two ‘quality seasons’, the western as well as the eastern. This is especially the case with teas from the upper part of the district, bordering Nuwara Eliya (which lies immediately to the west), though elevations in Uda Pussellawa are somewhat lower than they are in Nuwara Eliya, ranging from 950m to 1,600m (3,000-5,000ft).
The tea of Uda Pussellawa is sometimes compared in character with that of Nuwara Eliya, though it appears somewhat darker in the cup, with a pinkish hue and a hint of greater strength. The eastern quality season from June to September produces the best teas of the year, closely followed by the western season during the first quarter. The dry, cold conditions during this latter period add a hint of rose to the bouquet of a tea known for its medium body and subtle character. Periods of heavy rainfall, on the other hand, tend to produce a tea that is darker in the cup and stronger-flavoured.
Uda Pussellawa produces a variety of leaf sizes and styles, reflecting the relatively broad range of altitudes at which its estates are situated.