A cup of tea, they say, is modeled on the silence of retirement; a time to enjoy life away from everyday existence. And when it’s in an antique bungalow in the middle of a thriving emerald tea plantation, it’s even better. Thotalagala, a vintage-style baronial planter’s bungalow away from the plains of south-eastern Sri Lanka, poised on the crest of the Haputale escarpment, provides the perfect location to realize this vision.
The 145-year-old tea estate is located in the Pitaratmalie estate, which is part of the Agarapatana plantations. The tea plantation, spread over 8,000 hectares in Sri Lanka, produces one of the finest teas in the world.
Thotalagala offers seven ultra-luxurious, vintage-themed rooms with gorgeous antique furnishings, teak woodwork, and nostalgic artwork. The themed tribute suites are named after eminent personalities who have shaped the history of Sri Lanka’s main tea-producing region, Uva Province. They are Major Rogers, Sir Thomas Lipton, Reverend Walter Senior, James Taylor, Sam Popham, John Duncan and George Pilkington. The suites have been reconfigured to perfection and historical memories have been immaculately incorporated, according to the distinctive personality of the room. Records, artefacts, photographs and poems from the bungalow’s origins have been restored in the form of framed wall decor and displays, called the ‘Whiff of England and Scotland’. Simultaneously, modern, high-end amenities offer contemporary sophistication.
Local tea is at the very center of the Thotalagala experience. The bungalow serves zero mile tea, sourced and processed on the same estates, to support and showcase the tea industry and to keep the thriving tea culture alive. If afternoon tea is your thing, the staff will host a feast while you sip locally grown and brewed tea on the property’s beautiful wooden deck, enjoying the finer things in life.
The bungalow has an adjacent vegetable, fruit and herb garden where some of the exotic and artisan ingredients for the meals are sourced. The chefs, with their creativity and inspiration, personalize gourmet meals each day, to create an array of mouth-watering dishes, which are then served by liveried butlers. They’ll even pack you sandwiches, cakes, and nibbles for an outdoor experience through the expansive lawns and flower beds surrounding the bungalow.
Thotalagala is home to one of the best infinity pools in the country. Amrit Rajaratnam, the owner of the property, says, “This historic planter’s bungalow, Thotalagala, embodies my vision of creating immersive luxury in Sri Lanka. Thotalagala is exactly that for the understated luxury consumer. This thriving tea plantation is constantly linked with local cuisine, heritage, tea, art, and more. Experiential luxury is the most sustainable path for Sri Lankan boutique hotels.
Thotalagala creates a local experience for the discerning luxury traveler without any pretension. The bungalow, located on a living tea plantation, offers a unique experience of indulgence, while honoring its rich history and appreciating the beauty of things.
Adjoining the estate is Dambatenne, one of the only tea estates in the world that Sir Thomas Lipton (Lipton tea fame) planted himself. He chose to stay in Thotalagala, while visiting the plantations.
A five-hour drive to Thotalagala from Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo Haputale, the nearest train station, is a 15-minute drive