The cup that cheers
I was from Madras Presidency of
British India and the contiguous Indian States. So my country of birth
is India. I was shipped to the neighbouring country named Ceylon (during
the British period). I do not know the whereabouts of my parents. But I
do know, I was adopted by one James Taylor a British planter who
pioneered the cultivation of my breed in Sri Lanka.
To work in the plantation project he got down many minor workers from
my land of origin (labourers). I was brought up in the picturesque hill
side of Ramboda. A beautiful view of mountain scenery. Paddyfields
nestle in the valley. The sky above them is dappled with fast moving
clouds assuming fanciful forms in their flight. It required a
sub-tropical climate and a sloping terrain soil, rain, sun, and
different altitudes for my growth. I did not have any education.
I belonged to the earth. From my early age I was subject to an
operation to give a flamboyant look to my body. From my tender age
terminal shoots are picked up in a ten-day rotation. We were all virgins
fed on water and the best nutritious food obtained from earth. My young
days were miserable. Pruning and cutting dried parts of my body
retarding the growth. Therefore I did not grow much in height. It was a
lump of fat shady growth that spreads from shoulder to shoulder.
I blossomed in to a pretty maiden among cloud capped mountains, deep
valleys, and yawning chasms, peace, pure cold air and the water
cascading down over the rocks. This gave me a healthy effect for my fast
The day starts before sunrise. Everywhere men, women and children
start giving me enough problems by plucking and throwing into baskets
which they carry on their backs usually slung from their foreheads by
All these men and women pluckers are enshrouded in dark grey or brown
blankets hanging from their heads to their bare knees to protect from
cold and rain. While these labourers are at work, along the mountain
valley one could see lush greenery similar to the green carpeted
Wembildon tennis court.
End of the day, the pluckers make their way to a central shed called
a factory. They dump these baskets and spread out my parts which after
inspection are weighed. Round the corner comes a woman in bright sari
carrying the basket of the plucker on her back. She gave me a brilliant
smile, her white teeth stained with betel juice.
An iron gong is being struck somewhere calling the workers to
‘muster’. She hurries along the road and is soon lost to view. Next
stage, the Periadorai (big boss) sends us to the factory for processing,
turning my green skin to black. My beauty and quality firmly depends on
the expertise of skill craftsmen.
All depend the way he handles me. I am again kept on drying racks and
passed through rollers and broken up to release the aromatic juices from
my body, while oxygen combines with these juices to change me
mechanically into a bright copper which completes the process. The final
stage of manufacture is ‘firing’ which must be precisely timed to arrest
further oxidization by baking the broken parts of my body evenly. Black
fragments reduced to a fourth of its original bulk, now sifted and
graded by size into categories with whimsical names such as Pekoe,
Orange pekoe, Tippy, Green Pekoc and so on. We are again sent to auction
rooms for buyers to make offers. By now I looked beautiful and turned to
a super star. Looking elegant and pretty. I had reached the ripe age to
Most of my lovers were business tycoons. My bosses looked for the
highest bidder. My companions are packed in boxes of various sizes in
multi-coloured rappingpaper. We are labelled as grocer’s commodity and
sent to leading shopping malls in Colombo to be displayed in wooden
shelves. Some are shipped to foreign lands to see the world. One fined
day, a young couple picked me and took me under their care. Now I was
living in a palacios, house with all elegant furniture.
My association did not take much time to know that they were under a
romantic spell, ‘Just Married’. A beautiful village belle took me to her
bosom and started to pet me. May be for my pretty looks. After sometime
I was put in a white Japanese porcelain pot and brought in a trolley to
be served. I noticed a red golden liquid been poured into white cups. My
new found family had a characteristic way of drinking this beverage.
Neither sugar nor milk was added. They sipped it plain. Later I found
the best way to enjoy a cup of ‘tea’ is by drinking plain, where you
enjoy the aromatic flavour.
I am proud that I come from the picturesque hill-side of Ramboda and
became a favourite national beverage, the cup that cheers.
- Tissa Hewavitarane