An unexpected highlight of my trip to Colombo, Sri Lanka, last month was a wonderful immersive excursion to a cinnamon plantation. I love nothing more than seeing the whole field-to-fork journey roll out before my eyes – and at Villa Mayurana they specialise in just that.
The hotel is perched high up above six acres of leafy plantation, its gardens populated by strolling peacocks and a charming swimming pool (pictured). I didn’t have to go far to watch the harvesting of the slender trees – planted in groups of eight or 10. Our guide demonstrated the process for us, taking as an example just one of the 150 cinnamon sticks prepared daily at this time. He cut, peeled and “bruised” the wood to release the inner bark, prising off scrapings that he rolled neatly one inside the other, rather like Russian dolls. He then bundled several sticks together ready to be wind-dried for a minimum of five days before being taken to market.
Ninety per cent of Cinnamomum verum comes from Sri Lanka. Locals use it in savoury rather than sweet dishes – as I discovered during lunch ($30 per person) at the Villa, where it made an appearance in dishes such as cinnamon-infused prawns with cinnamon-oil dressing followed by tandoori chicken with cinnamon and coriander sauce.
Although I wasn’t staying on this occasion, such was the blissfulness of the day that I made sure to see the three suites (from about $250) with their lavish bathrooms and airy colonial-style mosquito-netted four-poster beds.
Next time if scented tranquillity is what I yearn for, I will book here for sure.