Tea. The drink of the civilized, right? Fine china, finger sandwiches. Polite conversation. In our Dilmah-run resort at Weligama, south of Colombo, Sri Lanka, it’s high tea every arvo, the sun slanting through the shutters, tall towers of treats, silver service, sea breezes.
Up in the hills though, the lush, productive, hand-picked plantations are festooned with relics, old cars, old accents, old manners. Old habits of humility and hard labour and broad smiles. The kind of old-school charisma that leaves you charmed, but melancholy.
Young drivers with big dreams.
Old merchants with stories that need to be teased out over a second and third cup.
Heat and the crush of bodies and the wide open ocean.
Into this, spritz some snobbery, or so goes the Atkinson 1799 marketing.
You know, I get the idea of claiming that colonialist haughtiness, especially when Britain has become, well, whatever deflated thing it is. The marketing is off, though, when you’re living (temporarily) in the result of that colonialism.
Still, a gin and tonic seems a refreshing substitute for an afternoon brew in the tropics, and the juice of 24 Old Bond St – juniper, fragrant petals – is the perfect match to long, hot, lazy afternoons, bracing winds and a choice of croquet or curry.
It’s charming, refreshing, like the offer of a stiff drink after a loooong day. A moment of old world manners, a long way from London.