The mention of ‘high tea’ usually conjures up images of stately homes and Earl Grey served in wafer-thin porcelain. But according to global travellers, the best places to enjoy this time-honoured tradition are far more exotic.
The data analysts at Booking.com used internal data to find the world’s best spots for high tea.* And according to Booking.com customers, the best place to head is high up to atmospheric villages and towns amid tea plantations – Sri Lanka, in particular. This small island is the world’s fourth-biggest producer of tea and most of it comes from the hill country.
The following are the highest-rated destinations for high tea in Sri Lanka.
Ella, Sri Lanka
All around the sleepy hill town of Ella, tea plantations and rice paddies have tamed the exotic landscape. Glowing bright green and bordered by wild forest, these plantations have long been the pillar of the local economy. But tourism is catching up. The crisp mountain air and far-reaching views (on a clear day even the glow of the lighthouses along the southern coast are visible) make a refreshing break from a typical Sri Lankan beach holiday. And the hiking in the area, particularly to the nearby Rawana Ella Falls, is sublime.
Haputale, Sri Lanka
In the middle of mountainous Sri Lanka, British tea planters established a collection of tea estates. You can visit one of these plantations or trek through misty tropical forest, before enjoying high tea with a view.
Nallathanniya, Sri Lanka
Most visit Nallathanniya to climb Adam’s Peak and watch the sun rise atop this conical mountain. But the surrounding undulating jungle-covered hills are also dotted with tea plantations, in turn dotted with tea pickers gathering leaves in their baskets, slowly shifting across the tranquil landscape in line formations. The types of tea produced here are varied, sophisticated in flavour, and have medicinal benefits for specific problems like indigestion and heart disease. As well as for your general health.
Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
This Sri Lankan destination is characterised by wavy hills of rich green jungle and waterfalls. Nuwara Eliya has a golf course, a boating lake and a Victorian post office. This lingering colonial legacy also means there are a few grandiose colonial hotels, which make a fine setting for a spot of high tea.
Kandy, Sri Lanka
Kandy is a city that sits in a valley beside a lake, lots of tea plantations, mountains, and rainforest. Pick up tea leaves to take home at the riotous local markets and sample fragrant blends on the verandah of one of the city’s many illustrious hotels. If you’re lucky you’ll stay at Helga’s Folly, a Salvador Dali-esque chalet slightly higher up in the mountains that has hosted guests from Mahatma Gandhi to Sir Laurence Olivier. The exuberantly-dressed proprietor, Helga Perera, is married to a former local tea planter and the hotel is the ultimate offbeat tropical retreat.
*The data analysts at Booking.com looked at endorsements by global travellers for ‘high tea’ and then selected destinations above certain criteria to ensure quality.