Harvesting tea at Kaley plantation

Organically grown and handpicked - our tea garden is located in a village in Kotapola in the Southern lowlands of Sri Lanka. We are only 15kms from UNESCO world heritage site - The Sinharaja Rainforest.

Creating forest friendly tea

Kaley plantation is blessed with bright, warm sunshine and tropical monsoon rains typical of the lowlands, cool mists typical in the mountains and gusty winds which are a feature of the central highlands. The soil is nutrient rich because it's fed with the crystal clear water from natural springs and nourished by surrounding forests.

So let's talk tea...

Organically Grown - Single Garden

Our leaves are organically grown & carefully handpicked before being naturally withered by the warm winds coming in from the neighbouring rainforest - Sri Lanka's largest rainforest - the Sinharaja. Our teas have characteristics of floral, chocolate, honey-bee sweetness and earth.

Nihal - Kaley's field officer

Quality checking

Nihal - Kaley's field officer

Quality checking

Harvesting seeds

Our new tea plants seedlings are grown from our own seeds.

Harvesting seeds

Our new tea plants seedlings are grown from our own seeds.

Mariammah - plucking fresh leaves

Mariammah - plucking fresh leaves

Our tea maker, Dissa's Mother - Mama D

1989 - war & insurgence engulfed Sri Lanka. Tea factories were forced to shut & tea was hard to find. Undaunted, Mama D, our master tea makers mother rekindled an age-old tradition. She gathered leaves before day break, sundried them, pounded the leaves in a stone mortar and fired them on an open hearth in her own kitchen. Voila - a full bodied ultra strong cuppa of smoky black tea.

Building our community

For our tea community we have improved staff housing & sanitation. We have supplied potable water to staff via natural springs. We have also established an enrichment programme for children of our staff. The programme is run by our co-founder with the assistance of a retired teacher who visits three times a week.

Nature preservation

To date we have protected 10 hectares of forest, planted over 400 forest tree saplings and planted over 2000 high nitrogen trees for natural fertiser. We are actively preserving our natural springs and streams.

Our tea nursery

Planting naturally

We have used zero weedicides and pesticides since 2015.

We raise our tea plants in our own nursery from our own harvested seeds. We also raise our own animals - free range animals who kindly fertilise our crops.

We have also built 3km of stone terracing to minimise soil erosion.

Insights from Udena at Kaley plantation

The quality of the tea depends primarily on the quality of the green leaf which in turn depends on the method of plucking and the maintenance of tea bushes. Traditionally tea is plucked by women to whom skills have been handed over through generations. There are also few men plucking a good quality green leaf!

Technically green leaf can be plucked at any time of the day. At Kaley, a tea leaf is plucked, processed and packed within a day of plucking, except for white tea which needs multiple rounds of sun drying.

The plucking of our green leaves takes place from 7.30am until just after midday.

Black, Green & White - What's the difference?

Kaley black tea is made with 2 leaves and a bud. The green leaf is withered through the night and tightly rolled before being fermented and dried.

Our green teas are also made from 2 leaves and a bud, the green leaf is is steamed and pan fried immediately after plucking. The leaves are then gently rolled and fired, dried and packed within 24 hours of plucking.

White tea is the least processed of all teas. Once the buds are plucked, they are sun-dried over 2 to 3 days, depending on weather conditions, the buds are briefly dried in the oven and packed thereafter.

Our Kaley team

34 people are employed on a full-time basis. In addition we employ on contract for specific tasks. Most of our team are multi-skilled, and have a variety of tasks daily.

We pay approximately 20% above the legal minimum pay and market rates. We provide resident housing- as is standard in the industry. We also support our employees financially by purchasing and delivering food supplies at discounted rates and on credit terms, as well as interest free loans to purchase assets.

As detailed above, education for the children is our main focus.

Kaley's team facts

Our female to male proportion is 50:50. Almost 90% of our team are Tamil. Our youngest employee is 17 and our oldest is 55 years.