Fragrance in Travel Literature-Golden tips. A description of Ceylon and its great tea industry (1900) by Henry Cave

Golden tips. A description of Ceylon and its great tea industry (1900)
Cave, Henry, 1854-


An evening
drive through this part of Colombo is a botanical
feast of the most exhilarating nature. In the part
now known as the Victoria Park one may wander
under the shade of palms and figs, or rest beneath
clumps of graceful bamboo, surrounded by blossoms
and perfumes of the most enchanting kind. The
huge purple bells of the Thunbergia creep over
the archways, and gorgeous passion flowers, orchids,
pitcher plants, bright-leaved caladiums and multi-
tudes of other tropical plants everywhere flourish
and abound.

The Temple and the Pattirippuwa, which is the
name of the octagonal building on the right of the
main entrance, are enclosed by a very ornamental
stone wall and a moat. The Temple itself is con-
cealed by the other buildings within the enclosure.
Upon entering we pass through a small quadrangle
and turn to the right up a flight of stone steps to the
Temple itself. The most noticeable features are
grotesque carvings, highly-coloured frescoes, repre-
senting torments in store for various classes of sinners,
and images of Buddha. A most torturous noise
is kept up by tom-tom beating, and the sound of
various native instruments. On either side are flower
sellers, and the atmosphere is heavy with perfume
of the lovely white blossoms. Each worshipper in
the Temple brings an offering of some fragrant flower.
The beautiful Plumiera, with its pure creamy petals
and yellow heart, is the most popular sacrificial
blossom, and this, together with jasmine and oleander,
is everywhere strewn by devout Singhalese. The
numbers of yellow-robed priests, the Kandyan chiefs
in their rich white and gold dresses and curious
jewel-bespangled hats, and the various richly-coloured
costumes of the crowds of reverent worshippers of
both sexes, form a scene striking in the extreme.

We are glad soon to retreat from this small
chamber, so hot, and filled with almost overpowering
perfume of the Plumiera blossoms, and to visit the
Oriental Library in the Octagon. In the balcony
we pause awhile and become refreshed as we look
around upon the motley crowd below. The chief
priest with great courtesy now shows us a very rare
and valuable collection of manuscripts of great anti-
quity. Most of them are in Pali and Sanskrit
characters, not written but pricked with a stylus on
narrow strips of palm leaf about three inches wide
and sixteen or twenty inches long. These strips
form the leaves of the books, and are strung
together between two boards which form the covers.
Many of the covers are ornamented elaborately with
embossed metal, and some are even set with jewels.
Besides the sacred and historical writings, there
are works on astronomy, mathematics and other
subjects.

But grand and beautiful as are the prospects
presented by day from the heights above Rambodde,
they are surpassed by the scenes in the gorge below
by night. The Moon thrice as brilliant as in north-
ern Europe, yet having a slight tinge of gold that
gives a softness to her rays ; the air, pure and cool,
perfumed with the sweet fragrance of lemon grass ;
all nature silent, save the mighty tones of distant
cataracts, and the music of mountain streams ; tree
ferns, wonderful in beauty and variety, exhibiting
every curve and pattern of their lovely fronds that
fringe the silvery torrents which leap on both sides
into the valley ; the weird shadows of the dark rocks
on the opposing slopes ; the grand flow of outline
along the ridges, centered in the distance by a lofty
double cone these are some of the features of a
moonlight scene in the pass of Rambodde. But I
am forgetting that it is now twenty-four years since
I was a solitary witness of this scene, and that in
more recent years the hill sides have been still
further denuded of their beautiful forests to make
way for the extension of tea cultivation ; still the
beauty of the district has not entirely disappeared
and even now many miles of the landscape are
lovely beyond description.


Our view of Queen Street (central) shows the Mer-
cantile Bank beneath the trees on the right, and
beyond it a handsome block of buildings, the com-
mercial house of the Caves, founded by the author
in the seventies. We have referred to, and illus-
trated, the Post Office which is in the same street.
Opposite this is the Queen's House, too much em-
bowered in foliage for a photograph ; and adjoining
it is a fine terraced garden, the Jubilee gift of the
Hon. Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon (now Lord
Stanmore). This is the brightest spot in the Fort;
for there all manner of feathery palms, gorgeous
crotons, and rosy oleanders combine to lend colour
and fragrance to a charming corner of the European
quarter. There are other fine buildings in this
broad and handsome street, notably the Hong-
kong and Shanghai Bank and the offices of the
Government.

The landscape in this direction varies little, how-
ever far we go, yet it is never wearisome. Every
visitor is delighted with it : the naturalist is en-
chanted by the abundance of interesting objects
at every turn ; while to the enthusiastic botanist
this highway, densely bordered on either side with
an inexhaustible variety of leaf and blossom, is a
treasury unsurpassed in any other country. The
brown thatched huts, groups of gaily-clad natives,
animals, birds all these add life to a scene that
baffles description. Garlands of creepers festooned
from tree to tree ; huge banyans stretching in arch-
ways completely over the road, with the stems
all overgrown by ferns, orchids, and other parasitic
plants ; here and there a blaze of the flame-coloured
gloriosa, golden orchids, various kinds of orange
and lemon trees covered with fragrant blossoms,
climbing lillies, an undergrowth of exquisite ferns
of infinite variety, all crowned by slender palms
of ninety or a hundred feet in height it is vain
to attempt a full description of such a scene.

The leaf is next spread out in wooden frames, and
having been covered by wet cloths is allowed to
ferment until it attains a bright copper tint such as
the infused leaves have in the tea-pot ; or at least
should have, for the brighter they appear the better
the tea. The rolling process, by breaking the cells
of the leaf, induces fermentation which is a very
necessary stage of the manufacture, the character of
the tea when made depending greatly on the degree
to which fermentation is allowed to continue. When
the commodity known as green tea is required, the
fermentation is checked at once so that no change of
colour may take place ; but to produce black tea the
process must be carried on for a considerable time,
the sufficiency of which is determined by the smell
and appearance of the leaf points that require
considerable experience and care, since over-fermen-
tation completely spoils the quality.*