Tea Culture in Sri Lanka

Being one of the largest producers of tea in the world, Sri Lankans drink a lot of tea. Many Sri Lankans drink at least three cups a day. Sri Lanka is also one of the best tea producing countries in the World and the Royal Family of the United Kingdom has been known to drink Ceylon tea. Tea is served whenever a guest comes to a house, it is served at festivals and gatherings. It is served almost anywhere in Sri Lanka.
Ceylon tea (black)
Ceylon black tea is black tea that is grown in Sri Lanka (which was known as Ceylon before 1972). It has a crisp aroma reminiscent of citrus, and is used both unmixed and in blends. It is grown on numerous estates which vary in altitude and taste.
The production of black tea in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) began after a deadly fungus called Hemileia vastatrix destroyed most of the coffee crop on the island. The coffee plantation owners realized that they needed to diversify. The Loolecondera Estate had long been interested in producing tea in Sri Lanka. James Taylor, one of the fathers of Ceylon Tea, had recently arrived on the Estate and wanted to be there for the sowing of the first tea crops in 1867. It was done on 19 acres of land. James Taylor was already experienced in tea cultivation. He had acquired his knowledge in North India. He carried out different experiements on cultivating tea on the verandah of his estate. He rolled the leafs by hand and fired the oxidized leaves on clay stoves over charcoal fire.
The tea that James Taylor made was delicious and sold for a very good price in the London Auction. The tea craze hit Ceylon. By 1890 tea production was at 22,900 tons up from just a mere 23 pounds between 1873 and 1880.
Until 1971, most of the tea companies in Sri Lanka were British-owned but this soon changed after the Land Reform Act was introduced to reacquire land in foreign hands. Since 1990, a new plan has been devised to share the industry between state-owned companies and privately owned companies.Today Lipton, Sir Winston and Ahlan Tea are most known Ceylon tea brands around the world.
Tea branding
Sign of Quality for Pure Ceylon Tea
Tea Garden in Sri Lanka 2Ceylon or Sri Lanka is renowned for its high quality tea. Sri Lanka, as the 3rd biggest tea producing country globally, has a production share of 9% in the international sphere, and one of the world’s leading exporters with a share of around 19% of the global demand. The total extent of land under tea cultivation has been assessed at approximately 187,309 hectares.
Ceylon tea is divided into 3 groups as Upcountry, Mid country and Low country tea based on the geography of the land on which it is grown.
The plantations started by the British were initially taken over by the government in the 1960s but has again being privatised and are now run by ‘plantation companies’ which own a few ‘estates’ or tea plantations each.
Though tea is not the largest export commodity in Sri Lanka, it is the most value added product since the total production from the beginning is done within Sri Lanka.
Tea produced in Sri Lanka carries the Lion Logo on its packages which indicate that the tea was produced in Sri Lanka. The use of the Lion Logo is closely monitored by Sri Lanka Tea Board which is the governing body of tea industry in Sri Lanka. If a tea producer wants to use the lion logo on his packaging, they need to gain permission from the Sri Lanka Tea Board. The tea board then performs a strict inspection procedure, the passing of which allows the producer to use the logo, along with the Pure Ceylon Tea – Packed in Sri Lanka slogan on their tea packaging. Each and every consignment is thoroughly inspected by Sri Lanka Tea board officers before being shipped. Therefore the lion logo and the wording is indeed the assurance of the origin of tea and its quality.
Most of the Sri Lankan tea exporters now focus on adding more value to the exports rather than exporting raw tea. The name Ceylon Tea or Sri Lankan tea is still regarded as a sign of quality throughout the world.
Grading of Ceylon Tea
Grade names which are used in Sri Lanka to classify its teas are not by any means the indication of its quality but its size and appearance. Mainly there are two categories. They areLeaf grades and Smaller broken grades. Leaf grades refers to the size and appearance of the teas that were produced during Sri Lanka’s colonial era (which are still being used) and the other refers to the modern tea style and appearance.