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    Sri Lanka: A jewel in the Indian Ocean is an understatement!

    819 1024 Tanita Holm

    More like a jewellery box filled with beauty and worth, Sri Lanka opened up to reveal a sight of breath-taking landscapes, calm and dynamic culture and a generous supply of the best quality goods straight from its rich soils. it was clear immediately that this place has its priorities straight and confirmed that we are in business with the right people.

    When driving through the hectic yet… efficient roads in our little red tuk tuk, we noticed the word ‘Ceylon’ pasted all over store signs, hotels, trips, everywhere. With it being the original name for Sri Lanka, Ceylon is still used proudly by the nation in many ways to keep their history alive. We couldn’t help but feel honoured to be able to use their natural product, Ceylon cinnamon, as our key ingredient!

    CEIBA in Sri Lanka

    We spent our 4 weeks staying in a small Buddhist town, Ambalangoda, which threw us smack into the middle of the fascinating Sri Lankan culture, where elephants and monkeys in the streets were not the main attraction, but we were. As we arrived, our accommodation was being blessed by the local Monk and we were all asked to enter the new build with our right foot to bring good luck. In our time here, we got to experience real ‘Sri Lankan people time’, spicy as heck homemade cuisines and the town’s true dedication to Buddhism.

    Alongside the lazy days basking in the sun and chowing down on great food, we did do our homework too! Visiting some of the local family run businesses, we noticed that the pride they carry on the name and production of Ceylon cinnamon does not stop there, they are also masters of gemstone and tea production, from ground to market. Despite the tight ship ran in the homes to secure their livelihoods, the locals managed to always stay warm and hospitable with their famous ‘no problem, Sri Lanka’ motto.

    These people are the true gems! Despite the insanity on the roads, not a single voice was raised or a curse thrown; when the occasional turtle or iguana would jaywalk, all traffic would stop to gently redirect the wildlife; whenever a temple, a Buddha or even an elephant was in sight, all locals would collectively show a gesture of respect. Nothing was ever too much effort or hassle for them.

    Now it was our turn to give back to these exquisite humans and bountiful lands. CEIBA got its hands dirty at the Panadura Elephant Conservation Centre, where we spent every day cleaning poop, washing the gentle giants and feeding them their favourites – palm leaves, pumpkins and cucumbers. We also spent the month mucking in at the Ambalangoda Rescued Turtles Sanctuary, where we got to witness not one but two of nature’s wonders; the hatching and the releasing of baby turtles! Here we also witnessed first-hand the damage which our careless recycling efforts have on the wild – one of our favourites being Lilo, the 100 year old resident, who has spent most of her life floating above water level in a tank because of a plastic bag she once swallowed in the sea. It was incredibly eye opening to be hit by these realities, especially when all the litter washed up on the golden white sands would fill our empty boxes within minutes of cleaning the beaches.

    Nature, nature and nature is what we came for and what we got… a lot of! This land is blessed with an impressive medley of green beauty, which vastly differs between South and North, where one minute you can be sheltered by palm trees and next you are driving through a dirt road in a Scandinavian-like forest. It was always pleasing to see cinnamon farms dotted around the place alongside natural wonders such as waterfalls and mountains, and to catch a whiff of the unique cinnamon scent during our open-air train journeys everywhere we went.

    We really are on the same wavelength, Sri Lanka and us. And as the locals would say, we truly did get ‘Sri Lankaned’!

    Trees of Life!

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    Here at CEIBA we have a love for our trees! Our drink is made from infusing the bark of a cinnamon tree and we named our tree after one of the grandest we know, the Ceiba itself. The Ceiba, the original tree of life, inspired conquistadors exploring the New World to seek out its origins for eternal life. Much myth and legend surround the tree, with beautiful imagery from the Mayans who believed the tree’s broad roots that run along the surface connect to the underworld (Xibalba), and its tall branches that reach through the skies connect to the heavens.

    We are very particular about our cinnamon too as we only want the best. We source Ceylon Cinnamon from Sri Lanka as it has crisper and more delicate sweetness and flavour than other varieties and it is not too spicy and overwhelming. The country has some breathtaking landscapes and greenery, yet the Sri Lankans are understated botanists too! We named our brand after Ceiba as the drink was found in Central America and there was no better way to pay homage to its roots and sentiment of making the most out of nature’s produce. But the Sri Lankans also have their own very sacred tree… the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.

    The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a sacred fig tree planted by people in 249BC. Yes, that makes it over two millennia old! It is still living and still cared for by people to this day. It is the oldest human planted tree in existence but that accounts for only a portion of its sacredness. The tree is said to be a branch of the original Sri Maha Bodhi, transported from India to be planted in Sri Lanka. Why is the Sri Maha Bodhi sacred? Under the tree is where Buddha sat when he gained Enlightenment. It is one of the most sacred relics to Buddhists in Sri Lanka and respected by Buddhists all over the world.

    The Sacred Jaya Sri Bodhi in Sri Lanka

    The Sacred Jaya Sri Bodhi in Sri Lanka

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    Skye’s the Limit

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    CEIBA is still a baby, so it was worthwhile taking the drink to a special place, Scotland’s Isle of Skye. It’s a special place to us because almost exactly a year ago CEIBA didn’t exist and we had visited Skye to feel refreshed and invigorated. It’s incredible landscapes with backdrops of cliffs, sea, cattle and sheep are tranquil even in the harshest weather conditions. It was refreshing once again to taste our drink in the surroundings that inspired it.

    We believe in connecting with nature wherever possible. From tracing the footsteps of how our ancestors interacted with their landscapes to feeling present in our own. Skye is the perfect place to do that.

    For one, it’s a quest in itself to find phone reception so mobiles were out for the trip. And then when you think that shops or any sort of amenities are often a 45 minute drive apart, the hunter gatherer in you comes alive; even if it’s just stockpiling on groceries when you can. If that doesn’t work your primal senses, building and maintaining your lodge’s fire will.

    Speaking of tracing footsteps, on the beach of An Corran in Staffin, there are footprints imbedded into rock of some of our eldest ancestors. Dinosaur footprints estimated to be 165 million years old scatter the beach and can be seen at low tide. We found one and my imagination pictured the giants strolling by. Then to learn that the cliffs behind the beach are estimated to be 50 million years old brought on a shivering sense of perspective.

    CEIBA’s tips for Skye

    1. Find a bothy to stay in
    2. Bring your own transport (watch out for the sheep)
    3. Wrap up warm
    4. Get a good map
    5. Enjoy your own company
    6. Bring a CEIBA 😉

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