|Sri Lanka - Small But Mighty
|Fifty-five miles from the southern tip of India lies the small pear shaped tropical
island of Sri Lanka. Although it is only 271 miles long and 137 miles wide, and
smaller than the state of Indiana, Sri Lanka is one of the world's top tea export-
ers and fourth largest producer, an amazing feat considering its size.
|Tea is not indigenous to Sri Lanka
but rather was brought there to
replace the blighted coffee plantations, devasted
by the coffee-rust fungus (Hemileia vastatrix) in
After seizing control of Sri Lanka (then called Cey-
lon) in 1815, the British brought the first tea plants
to the island shortly after establishing plantations
in Assam at the end of the 1830's.
Tea had been consid-
ered as an alternative
to coffee as early as
the 1850's and at the
in the Hewaheta dis-
|trict in Kandy, an enterprising, hard working, and determined Scots-
man by the name of James Taylor was hired to oversee the first test planting of tea with Assam
At the same time Solomon and Gabriel de Worms planted test gardens
with Chinese tea seed in the Labookellie Garden in the Nuwara Eliya
district. These two early test gardens set the stage for the massive tea
gardens that were to come.
From that point on the Ceylon tea industry grew rapidly, from 23 pounds
of tea produced in 1880 to 23 tons, ten years later in 1890. Today Sri
Lanka produces nearly 300,000 tons of tea a year, grown on approxi-
imately 650 tea estates, covering close to half a million acres of land.
Ceylon tea is marketed in several different ways. Sri Lanka's ctc tea that
is used in blends is marked 100% Ceylon tea. Other teas are marketed by the region, such as
Uva or Nuwara Eliya teas, or they are marked with the estate, such as Kenilworth Estate tea.
Still others are marketed as specific garden estate teas, for example Bogawantalawa Estate,
Sri Lanka's unique geography and climate
provide for three types of tea, which rather
than being determined by the season, such
as spring flush, summer flush, etc., are rath-
er determined by the altitude. The three
types are; low-grown tea, grown at eleva-
tions below 2,000 feet, mid or medium-
grown teas, grown at elevations of 2,000
to 4,000 feet, and high-grown teas, grown
between 4,000 and 6,000 feet.
Sri Lanka is divided into six main growing
areas; Ratnapura, a low to mid-growing
area about 50 miles east of the capital of
Colombo; Galle, also a low-growing region
to the south; Kandy, a mid-growing area
where the first tea plantations were established
near Polonnaruwa, the ancient capital of Ceylon;
Dimbula, a high-growing area west of the Central
Mountains; Uva, alsoa high-growing area west of
Dimbula; and Nuwara Eliya, the highest tea growing region that produces some of the best
Each of these areas has its own unique climate and geography,
giving the teas their individual characteristics, flavors, and
Because of the heat and humidity most low-grown teas are un-
remarkable and used mainly for blends and tea bags. Medium
teas grow in a drier, cooler climate and produce more mellow and
fruity teas, and high-grown teas are what makes Ceylon teas
famous, with the high altitude air producing exquisite teas with deep golden to deep rose liquor
and intense flavors.
The small island nation won independence from Britain in 1948,
changing its name from Ceylon to Sri Lanka. But for marketing pur-
poses and continued brand recognizability it retained the name
Ceylon for its teas.
Most of Sri Lanka's tea production is orthodox black tea from single
estates or is added to English style black tea blends or as a base for flavored teas. Orthodox
tea is more expensive to produce, but is becoming more and more in demand by tea drinkers
worldwide, who are discovering the exquisite flavors available in loose leaf artisan made
In 1993 the Sri Lanka Tea Board offered incentives to tea fact-
ories willing to convert to CTC production from orthodox. The
idea behind this move was to give Sri Lanka the opportunity to
compete for their share of the huge CTC market with factories in
India, Kenya, and Malawi.
The move was a giant failure. By temporarily focusing on CTC
production, the Sri Lanka tea producers not only lost sales, but also lost their status as a world
class producer of luxury teas. Most made the decision to return back to orthodox production
|Today Sri Lanka has regained its status as a premier would tea producer, once again putting their emphasis on
quality and style, as well as bringing new teas to market, such as Ceylon Silver Tips. This is one of the few exquisite
white teas found outside of China and it is holding its own against their Silver Needle, or Bai Hao Yin Zhen, with a
subtly sweet, soft citrus flavor reminiscent of an orange pierced with cloves.
To ensure you are buying 100% Ceylon tea look for the logo of the Sri Lanka Tea Board, which is a stamp mark of a
stylized lion holding a sword. Enjoy.
|Copyright 2011 www.theteadetective.com All rights reserved.
No reproductions of any kind allowed without permission
|For a great selection of quality teas, gifts, and
The Tea Detective's Gift of Tea Store
|For more information or to learn more about tea, visit our other pages.
What is CTC tea and why is it the main type of
tea grown in the Nilgiri region of India?
When and where was tea first discovered?
Where in China do their chocolaty
flavored black teas come from?
Why are Darjeeling teas more expensive?
Which of India's three major growing
regions is called "the tea basket?"
How much loose tea should I use
for my 24 ounce travel mug?
Which of Japan's teas is prized by
What type of tea is Golden Monkey and where is it made?