Last week’s post about taking Lila to tea got me thinking about the tea plantation Ed and I visited in Sri Lanka.
The place went on for acres and acres, it was a fabulous, warm, sunny day and we were able to see everything from plant to package and then, of course, we sipped tea and nibbled on cake in the shade of a beautiful garden.
We learned a lot too.
In case you don’t already know this, all tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant. Flavor differences have to do with lots of other factors such as where the plant is grown, the acidity of the soil, leaf size and so on, and also how it is processed, (whether it is left immature, or green, or “fermented” to darken; whether it is smoked, blended with other teas, etc.).
Sri Lanka is known for its tea and Ed and I agree it’s the best tea in the world, which is why we were so excited to spend a day and see exactly how it’s made.
The plantation we went to wasn’t totally set up for visitors, but we were able to speak with some of the workers who showed us the entire tea-leaf process. You can see one of the women plucking the tops — only the new, light green growths are harvested (every 7 days on this plantation). Then (second photo), the leaves are placed in a bin to wither and dry. Once they dry somewhat they are sent (photo 3) to crushing machines (photo 4), which breaks the leaves. The leaves are then dried some more and as they dry they oxidize and change color from golden to dark blackish-brown, to achieve varieties of tea such as oolong and different black teas. (Green tea and white tea are not oxidized.)
Finally, the leaves are sorted for quality (photo 5).
The best quality teas are sold in bulk, as whole or partially broken leaves; the lowest quality teas are tiny, crushed, sometimes almost powdery leaves packed into tea bags. For the most part I can say that tea bags are less messy and more convenient but tea tastes better when you make it from loose tea leaves.
After visiting a tea plantation I prefer the loose tea, if only because I know how much work is involved and it makes me appreciate the beverage better.
Your choice on that though. Whatever you choose, enjoy the muffins, which are perfect no matter what kind of tea you pick.
If you are ever in a place where you can visit a tea plantation, I recommend it highly. It’s a good learning experience and lots of fun too.
Honey Corn Muffins
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons honey
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease 8 muffin cups. Melt the butter with the honey and set aside to cool. In a bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In another bowl mix the egg, milk and cooled butter mixture, beating until well blended. Pour the liquid into the cornmeal mixture and stir to blend the ingredients. Spoon equal amounts into the muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.