May 2017


Ceylon Tea: A Brew Loved World Over
May 2017




Emerald tea fields neatly carpet the slopes in the Dimbula tea growing region

Birthed in the central hills of Kandy, Sri Lanka's tea fields have spread across the Island. The varied terrain, fertile soil, multiple climates as well as microclimates and monsoons are what define the multi-faceted characteristics of Ceylon Tea.


In addition to its rich and renowned history, Ceylon Tea is gifted with variety and varied characteristics that cater to a multitude of palettes. This blessing is bestowed by the distinctive geographical and climatic diversity of the Island. Although the British coffee planters first captured the mist enshrouded hills, the tea fields of Sri Lanka have over the years expanded across to the flat landscape that feels the salty breeze.


There are seven prominent tea growing regions in Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya, Uda Pussellawa, Uva, Dimbula, Kandy, Sabaragamuwa and Ruhuna. The regions are spread across three elevation categories; High Grown (elevation above 1,200m), Mid Grown (between 1,200m and 600m) and Low Grown (between 600m and sea level). While the British planters commenced the industry in the higher elevations, the once post-independent Ceylon became Sri Lanka the local planters spearheaded the industry's growth through the lower elevation.


Humble Beginnings at Mid-Level
It all started on this elevation. The Kandy tea region, when the founder of tea in the then Ceylon, James Taylor produced the first fresh batch of Ceylon Tea in 1867, is cocooned by the cool climes of this elevation. A segment of the Sabaragamuwa tea region, Sri Lanka's biggest tea growing region, too falls into this mid-grown category. Ceylon Black Tea produced here is characterized as ‘strong, rich and full-bodied teas'.Undoubtedly, with the country's first tea fields finding its home in the Mid Grown elevation, plenty of beautiful sites here add to Ceylon Tea's luster. The Loolecondera Estate hosts the first tea bushes at ‘Field No 7', five acres planted by James Taylor, the Father of Ceylon Tea. At the same estate, one can also catch a glimpse of the remains of Taylor's log cabin where tea was first produced and James Taylor's Seat that overlooks much of the areas lush vegetation.

After the success of tea and the plight of the Island’s coffee fields at the hands of ‘Devastating Emily’ (the Blight) a ‘Tea Rush’ emerged in Sri Lanka in the late 1800s.


High Grown Elevation Illustrates a Celebrated History
After the success of tea and the plight of the Island's coffee fields at the hands of the ‘Devastating Emily' (the Blight) a ‘Tea Rush' emerged in Sri Lanka in the late 1800s. Apart from Kandy this was concentrated in the High Grown Elevation (above 1200m) encompassing tea regions of Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula, Uda Pussellawa and Uva. Ceylon Black Tea produced at this elevation is defined as ‘perfectly rounded teas with a bright and strong taste'.


While famed coffee plantations like the popular Great Western Estate in Thalawakele were converted to tea, planters from across oceans travelled here to strike luck, and that they did. As the tea economy took off steadily, infrastructure was developed and the railways came to the Island. Since the planter's life here prospered storybook like cottages, beautiful churches and planter's clubs emerged as well. The elevation carefully guards the opulent identity of Ceylon Tea with significant monuments such as the Sir Thomas Lipton's Cottage in Dambetenna, his Seat in Haputale and famed landmarks such as the 160-year old Dimbulla Athletic and Cricket Club set up by the coffee planters and then used by the tea fraternity and the Holy Trinity Church in Nuwara Eliya.

Colombo International Tea Convention August 8 – 11, 2017


The region is filled with beautiful English-style cottages such as the old Great Western Estate Manager's Bungalow and popular railway stations such as Radalla, Great Western and Nanu Oya built specifically for each estate.


Low Grown, Where the Industry Perseveres
At a height between 600m and sea level, the Low Grown Elevation emerged after the Independence of Ceylon. Producing as much as 70 per cent of Sri Lanka's tea quantity, this region lead by private factories and tea smallholders, is the backbone of the Ceylon Tea industry in the country. The brew produced here is heavy, robust and deep in colour, a flavour coveted by the Middle East and the Russian tea markets.


There is a unique culture in this elevation, with many plantations and factories operating separately yet seamlessly. A traveller passing the low-grown tea estates will experience not only expansive tea fields, but be able to witness tea cultivations in the gardens and estates of homeowners. The spirit of the tea smallholders emulating the steadfast and diligent soul of the Ceylon Tea industry.

  • image01
  • image01
    image01

    A tribute to James Taylor, the Father of Ceylon Tea at Loolecondera Estate

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Tea ready for oxidisation

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Tea leaves are first weighed and collected

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Down the shoot for the process to begin

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Tea leaves placed on the withering trays

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Bearwell Blossom, a pretty creation from tea buds

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    The Dimbulla Athletic and Cricket Club

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Sir Thomas Lipton's seat in the Uva tea region

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Tea pluckers in fields of the lower elevation

    Prev Next