When she was only five, she enjoyed playing Tea Time with her little sister, Utthara. Playing with tea sets at the verandah of the quaint ligneous house while enjoying the panorama of the lush green hills was one of Sithara’s favourite things to do. A carpet of bright green tea plants on the chilly mountain and geometrically curved tea hedges greeted her every morning when she was on her way to school.
Sithara’s childhood was spent in an old tiny wooden house situated in the emerald green tea shrubs of Rothschild Estate in Pusselewa. She has been reminded many times that life is not all roses due to limited basic needs and financial struggles endured by her parents who worked as organic tea planters. The vast azure sky and the viridescent tea terrace were the eyewitnesses to her life story.
One evening with the magical twilight sky painted a magnificent portrait of the ending part of the day, made Sithara to drown in her own thoughts. Eighteen years old Sithara had completed her post-secondary school with flying colours. Some of her friends were all ready to fly abroad to embark on their new journey except for herself. Her eyes were filled with tears and her lips were sealed shut, unable to express the sorrow that overwhelmed her.
Sithara’s eyes were fixed on the window as she stood silently. Poverty was not something she asked for. Neither did she request to be born into a farming family. The mental chatter continued to exhaust her, and she continued to drown in her sorrows.
All that was just part of Sithara’s diary seventeen years ago. It seemed impossible for a farmer’s daughter to break the social and economic barriers to leave Ceylon and make a name for herself in the world. She had to face many obstacles and challenges all the way through, but she was determined to make it happen.
Since Sithara was the eldest child in the family, her persistence and determination inspired her to seek a fresh start. When her wealthy relatives refused to aid her and her family during financial crises, she had to look for opportunities elsewhere. With hard work and dedication, she was pretty determined to rise above her life’s circumstances.
She spent thirteen years working in a posh coffee house in the capital city of Malaysia. She began her career as a barista and later was promoted to cafe manager. After years of serving in the coffee house in the bustling city, she decided to return to her homeland. The image of her parents and her beloved sister and the fresh green tea leaves covered with morning dew in the tea orchard called her.
This time, the island of Dharma welcomed the young and talented Sithara with lots of dreams and hopes. Within a short time, the young lady had opened her own cafe in the heart of Colombo. The cafe became a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Sithara’s cafe featured a variety of tea, coffee and pastries which was a testament to her passion and dedication to bringing the finest taste of Ceylon chai and coffee to the people of Sri Lanka.
Cover image by Swastik Arora/ Pexels. The copyright of ‘Mistress of Ceylon Chai ’ belongs to Malini Lakshmi Bai.