Lumbini Tea Valley: Welcome to the valley of originality
Ceylon, a name that resonates globally when coupled with another word… Tea. Together, these two terms have put the island nation of Sri Lanka, previously known as Ceylon on the map of global acclaim. For centuries, Sri Lanka has been known for the uniqueness in its teas, and any tea of Lankan origin by default becomes of a higher standard, thus the basis for respect garnered across the world for the moniker ‘Ceylon Tea’.
The unique qualities inherent to Ceylon tea are a result of multiple natural elements, which are singular to the island, and a manufacturing process that has been mastered over centuries. While there are many craftsmen in the nation that can lay just claim to the greatness of their teas, there is a companionship of visionary individuals who create tea, not as a mere beverage product but more as heavenly produce akin to works of art.
An overstatement you say? Clearly you have not yet seen, sensed the aroma, nor sipped the luxuriant liqueurs of Lumbini Valley teas. In a land that is constant in its output of premium quality teas, Lumbini Tea Valley comes off as a clear outlier with its extraordinary aptitude for crafting teas that are nothing short of being absolutely original.
The birth of Lumbini Valley
The year 1975 will go into the annals of history as the beginning of a renaissance for tea. Dayapala Jayawardana, planted his first tea field along the Lumbini Valley with the vision of creating a tea of distinctive flavor that would reflect the true character of the tea leaves and the land it originates from.
However, cultivating a tea plantation is just part of the tea creation journey. The ‘equally significant other’, is in establishing a perfected manufacturing process that would enable the teas to reach its desired consumable form. In 1984, Mr. Jayawardana goes on to embark on the next phase of the adventure by establishing a state-of-the-art factory that would produce his signature brand of black tea and thus, Lumbini Tea Valley is born in essence.
Back to the future: Lumbini Tea Valley 35 years later
Hop in to the DeLorean and BOOM! 2019. In Human terms, 35 years is a long time. Equally as long for a brand, a time span such as this would either see a brand rise to greatness, or decline towards a quiet death. Lumbini Tea Valley falls squarely into the former category.
The reins of the brand now lie with Mr. Jayawardana’s son; Chaminda Jayawardana. He, together with sub-brand co-founder; Harris Uddika Mahadiulweva have now ventured out into new territories, steering the Lumbini brand ever upward, with the vision of achieving global acclaim for the Lumbini brand and to occupy the top position as the world’s No.1 gourmet tea brand.
Product-wise, Lumbini is already there. 35 years of reiterating the manufacturing process have enabled a sure hand in craftsmanship, resulting in the creation of teas that are singularly unique in flavor, aroma and texture. The challenge lies in breaking into new markets globally, and in the perception of consumers, being identified as a brand that deserves attention.
That unmatchable uniqueness… how has Lumbini got it right?
Purporting to be singularly unique and therefore deserving of global acclaim is a very bold claim. But Lumbini Tea Valley does this with ample reason. The master tea makers of Lumbini are no novices when it comes to their teas. Between them, both Chaminda and Harris share over 50 years of experience in the art of tea crafting. In travelling the world during this time - promoting tea and its inherent benefits as they did so, realization dawned that while many great teas were encountered, nothing they tasted really matched up to the signature qualities of original Ceylon tea.
In a sense, the character and identity of true Ceylon tea seemed lost to the world, and from thereon it became the mission for Chaminda and Harris to bring back that signature taste to the world stage through Lumbini Tea Valley.
Originality stems from origin
World over, brands blend teas of different origin and make to achieve certain desired characters to their end products. Unfortunately, this practice mars the true identity of a tea and impedes consistency in quality. The myriad health benefits infused in tea are also negated to a great extent during the process of blending. On the other hand, Lumbini Tea Valley HAS, and ALWAYS WILL BE, a single origin tea.
What IS a single origin tea anyway? Single origin teas are those that have been produced from leaves originating from a specific tea producing area and have NOT been blended with leaves from different tea terroirs.
This concept is constantly abused to label teas of varying quality and vague origin, either with the intention of misleading consumers or out of plain ignorance as single origin teas command a higher level of perceived quality and therefore higher pricing. To the discerning consumer, the ‘better’ and more renowned single origin teas have their terroir as part of the brand name. As such, Lumbini Tea Valley is more than just a brand name, it is also a testament to its authenticity as a single origin tea.
Lumbini teas are manufactured exclusively using leaf harvested from the Lumbini Valley. This allows for consistency in quality, as well as the ability to retain the distinctiveness of the teas over time due to the innate elemental characteristics of the origin itself. Where other brands constantly need to revive their specialty products due to inconsistencies in quality arising from varying leaf sourcing practices, the tea makers of Lumbini ensure that the produce that comes in to the manufacturing process is from nowhere other than the valley.
A valley that embodies purity
How often do you come across a tea, that is so distinct in its character that you are able to taste the essence of the land from which it originates? Key among the reasons that this valley in particular was selected by Mr. Jayawardana in 1975 for his vision of tea, was that it afforded one of the most dynamic atmospheric combinations found in the world.
Located in the southern interior of Sri Lanka, The Lumbini Valley is a rich ecosystem of complementing elements; hitherto unspoiled and untainted by industry and pollution. The uneroded and nutrient-rich soil uphold and sustain the acres of tea plantation, drawing moisture from underground veins fed by the crystal waters of the Gin River that runs through the valley. Situated just above, is the 18,900-acre Sinharaja Rainforest (a UNESCO world heritage site). From there, the oxygen-rich rainforest winds couple with oceanic winds blowing in from southern coast, and flow down to the valley below. The crisp and pure atmosphere created by the collaborating winds act in union with the natural brightness of the equatorial sun to induce unique characters to the teas of the valley.
The phenomenal synergy of the four elements; earth, wind, light and water, act upon the tea bushes thriving in this ecosystem that can be only described as life-giving, thus inducing the flavor, aroma and richness that is now hereditarily unique to Lumbini teas.
A process made perfect
Practice makes perfect… the expression holds true in the case of Lumbini Tea Valley. From the inception in 1984, the master craftsmen of Lumbini have followed an iterative process of tea manufacture with continuous adaptation of improvements to arrive at today’s approach to making tea.
The manufacturing process begins with the plucking of tea leaves, which is an art in itself. Those plucking must ensure that they break off only the top two leaves and bud on a branch, as they contain the highest concentration of flavor, antioxidants and health-boosting elements. It then progresses on through to withering, rolling, oxidization, firing, grading and then finally tasting. What makes the Lumbini process so special is that they are able to create 40 different varieties of tea from the same leaf by shifting the dynamics of one or more stages of the manufacturing process.
Don’t let the apparent simplicity of the task fool you into thinking that this could be easily replicable. It took the craftsmen of Lumbini Tea Valley the better part of a century to arrive at this achievement. It is commendable that even while turning out different consistencies, they are able to retain a signature trait that make Lumbini teas instantly identifiable.
Sheer inventiveness and mastery of technique is where Lumbini Tea Valley sets itself apart from all would-be competition. Self-aggrandization this is not, for Lumbini have proven themselves time and time again on their capacity for world-class originality.
Handwork makes for creative handiwork
When the rest of the world is leaning towards modern technology with the intent of revolutionizing tea making, master tea makers Chaminda and Harris are of the notion that this revolution should originate at the hands of men and women.
The birth of Dalu™ signature range is the end result of this revolution. Handspun teas of such intricate brilliance, that you begin to wonder whether it might be an injustice to the maker of such art, to pour boiling water over it. Shaped in the form of flowers, comets, rings and tongues of flame, the handspun teas of Lumbini are truly unique to the hands that created them. Not accustomed to just making things pretty, the team of artisans have ensured that the teas are heavenly to taste as they are to behold.
Much of these hand-crafted teas have been awarded at global level for innovation and it seems a no brainer that Lumbini Tea Valley has got it all figured out when it comes to being creative with their teas. Their success in this regard should be mainly attributed to their unwavering faith in the human element. Where popular impulse is to maximize profits through high volume, the spearheads of Lumbini see greater potential in carving out a niche for their brand by offering select quantities of the highly exclusive teas to the more discerning tea aficionado. After all, anyone can churn out volumes of mediocrity, but it takes something special to create a handful of greatness.
From Lumbini with love
‘Things made with love contain so much more goodness’, a popular sentiment among those who like to romanticize a bit more than everyone else. While Chaminda and Harris are not much for this sort of sentimentality, they do however believe that the teas they make in the Lumbini valley ARE more enriched with goodness than any other tea made in the world simply because the people that make them, are wholly committed to the process.
Lumbini Tea Valley, has 200 men and women in its employment, almost all of them from the valley itself. In some cases, relationships span generations. Mr. Jayawardana’s ethic of conducting socially and environmentally responsible work practices ensured that the valley remained an unspoiled ecosystem whilst at the same time bringing about economic prosperity to the people, through direct and indirect affiliations. The moral principles are in practice even to-date, and the people… well let’s just say that their love for the tea that sustains an entire valley DOES put in an extra bit of goodness to the cup you hold in your hand.
The cup that fulfils
The story of Lumbini Tea Valley began in 1975… decades later, it remains very much a story with exciting new chapters ahead of it. Even as the global story of tea takes a turn for revival with planters, manufacturers and brands scrambling to identify the next biggest fad, Lumbini Tea Valley aims to come out on top with their perfected value proposition of uniquely characterized single-origin tea.
By opting to remain close to their ‘roots’, Lumbini has developed an identity that has become synonymous with non-conformist originality. And even though the years may progress, with each cup of Lumbini tea that is savored, a promise is fulfilled… one that was made by Mr. Jayawardana to gift a tea to the world, pure Sri Lankan in essence.