Whether it’s a relaxing time or an education on teas the Russel's Elvitigala Tea Lounge and Gallery provides for all
By Cassandra Mascarenhas
The prominent tea estate façade of Russel's Elvitigala Tea Lounge and Gallery located on Elivitigala Mawatha makes it very easy to spot even when cruising along the generally busy road.
The quaint little shop is the perfect place to stop over for a quick sip of tea and a couple of snacks when passing through the area.
The first of its kind, the innovative tea lounge is the brainchild of the Managing Director of Russel’s Tea and Catering Service Russel Perera, the idea coming to him not through business interests but surprisingly instead through religious fervor.
Designed to represent a log cabin, the lounge features wooden walls adorned with framed black and white photos from the 1860s of the pioneer of tea in Sri Lanka, James Taylor who introduced and developed tea plantation in the country in the mid 1800s. The small tables and cozy feel of the place gives the lounge a personal, homey feel making anyone who steps in feel right at home.
Once seated patrons have a choice between hot or iced tea for beverages and can choose from a range of savouries and pastries with a couple of additional more filling snacks available at around lunchtime.
“We only offer snacks even at lunch as we want to promote this as a place where people can just drop in for some tea and some short eats not as a restaurant where full course meals are served. This has so far gone down well with our customers who find the range of food available perfect accompaniments with their cup of tea”, explained Russel Perera.
Teas available for consumption include Russel’s own brand of unblended teas, brought down straight from their estates in Maskeliya and Bogolantalawa which is served piping hot in a pot to the table as well as a range of Akbar Brothers’ delicious flavoured iced teas which include flavours such as peach, tea original, jasmine green and blackcurrant amongst others.
The entire right wall of the Lounge as one walks in is dominated by a huge display of teas from Sri Lanka’s top exporters. These teas which are made for only export purposes are generally not available for purchase in the country but are sold at Russel’s tea lounge which features teas from six top exporters – Akbar Brothers Ltd., Bogawantalawa Teas, Expolanka Teas, Impra Tea, Ranfer Tea and Amazon Teas which has proved to be a big hit with especially the foreigners who appreciate the convenience of being able to easily being able to choose from the wide range of teas available in one place.
The lounge also doubles as a gallery and mini tea museum of sorts also featuring many interesting displays such as an exact replication of a brick chimney used in the days of James Taylor, a detailed miniature display of a tea plantation and other interesting little exhibits. A collection of over 60 types of designer and rare teas is also displayed in the centre of the shop, the most expensive one selling at a mind blowing Rs. 15000 a kilo. “I also want a visit to the Lounge and Gallery to provide people with an educational experience especially children which is why I have made it a point to include all these displays and exhibits and maintain an authentic feel. I plan on extending the gallery further, as well at the food menu and perhaps even have souvenirs for sale but we are taking things slow as we have just started out”, Perera said.
The Russel’s Elvitigala Tea Lounge and Gallery which opened on 25 September has proven to be very popular with tourists but also provides quite the novel experience for even locals. The tea lounge is open every day from 7a.m. to 8p.m.