About a hundred women with sacks, too large and heavy for their size, were scattered through the lush tea gardens of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), as they tirelessly and very meticulously selected and picked only ‘two leaves and a bud’. As sun began to set, it was time to set off for their homes and prepare dinner for their men who were still working in the tea plant. But before they could head home, they had to transport their much-prized harvests to the production house.
Life was quite hard for them but they faced it with determination and passion to produce the world’s finest cup of tea. At the end of the day, they relished a cup of their own tea with an aroma and a flavor so rich, it immediately lifted up their spirits and renewed their passion.
This is where some of the world’s finest tea, Ceylon Tea, will take you back in time, as you open the bag and let its rich and sweet scent punch you in the face. If you could compare tea with a gentleman, Ceylon tea will be the kind of person you were waiting for; well-bred and refined but not elitist like Earl Grey; sure-headed but not brusque like Lapsang Souchong. It will be the person you would like to dance with and who would carry you around in his arms and take you for a stroll in the garden.
What is Ceylon Tea?
Ceylon tea hails from the tea gardens in the Paradise Island known as Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka. With a unique combination of land, sun and rain that is quite complex for a small island, the Island of Sri Lanka harbors the ideal conditions that result in a tea so distinctive and unique in its character.
Just like all great black teas, it is made using the fine plucking method of selecting two leaves and a bud. The distinct character of Ceylon tea, which makes it a favorite afternoon cup of consumers, is all because of the terrain, altitude and weather conditions of the region where it is grown. Ceylon tea differs in its flavor and aroma as you move from one tea growing region to the other but each has a flavor that is much sought after across the world.
History of Ceylon Tea
“Not often is it that men have the heart, when their one great industry is ruined, to rear up in a few years another as rich to take its place: and the tea fields of Ceylon are as true a monument of courage as is the lion of Waterloo." -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The history of Ceylon Tea is too rich and long to describe in a few words. But it’s too interesting to not tell.
As strange as it may seem, the story of Ceylon tea production began with coffee. There was a time when coffee was the king in the country of Ceylon, which was largely occupied by the British crown. The fifth Ceylon colonial governor, Edward Barnes saw an opportunity in coffee, which was already a plant growing in the central hills. Government reforms were introduced, infrastructure was made, and funds were dedicated for coffee production. It was not very long when the coffee industry was in full gear and became the main source of revenue for Ceylon.
However, this idyll was only short lived as a new plant disease coffee-rust showed its first signs in 1869 and wiped out the entire coffee enterprise in Ceylon. The coffee industry collapsed and so, did the economy. As the colony was struck by an immense aura of panic, Tea saved the day.
It was James Taylor, a reclusive planter, who had been experimenting with a new plant, planting it across the margins of his coffee estate. He was trying to emulate the process used by tea manufacturers in Assam, India and had already withered the first leaves on his bungalow veranda. By the time the coffee blight struck the country, Taylor had already sent his first consignment to England. News flew across the country and planters came to visit his estate to learn how to grow and manufacture tea.
However, salvation didn’t come easily. About 120,000 hectares of land had to be stripped off of dead and dying coffee plants and replanted in tea. It was not just costly but heartbreaking too but the heroic planters of Ceylon did it. Within a decade, the tea industry had been built on the ruins of the old and since then tell a great story of salvation, heroism, determination and passion.
Ceylon Tea Growing Regions and Varieties
Like the wine-growing regions of France, Sri Lanka is divided into strictly-defined tea-growing regions or districts, which have their own unique combination of terrain and weather, which give a distinct character to their respective teas.
Here are some tea growing regions in Sri Lanka and the regional character of their tea.
The character of the tea varies according to the altitude where it is grown. Teas grown at low altitudes are hearty, tangy and very rich in flavor while those grown at high altitudes are lighter bodied but are more aromatic and sweet. Medium altitude tea growing regions have a mix of these characters, depending on the particular terrain and climatic conditions.
Popular Brands of Ceylon Tea
Housewives and restaurateurs across the globe have become familiar with the name ‘Ceylon Tea’ and its famous lion logo. They know that if the name and the logo appears on a packet, it guarantees the reliability and quality of the tea inside. However, if you want to indulge in the finest cup of Ceylon tea, here are some brands to look for:
Use clean, filtered water to brew a fine cup of Ceylon Tea. Enjoy it with a generous dose of cream and refresh yourself. It’s the perfect afternoon tea to indulge in, served with a warm piece of savory bread.
About the Author
Maria Ilyas is a passionate writer and writes about all interesting things that happen locally in Pakistan. She is particularly mesmerized by the unique culture and traditions of her home country. She loves tea and the culture connected to the drink. Maria's Favorite Teas: Jasmine Green Tea and Tetley Gold Tea.