The Superintendent
Mr. I M A D B Illankoon
Since – 29/03/2020
Mobile No – 0761 37 32 37

Name of the Estate – Loolecondera
Address – Loolecondera Estate, Deltota
Asst.Superintendent – Mr. M A C Indrajith
Asst.Superintendent – Mr. W D T Fernando
Asst.Superintendent – Mr. J P N Sampath
Main Crop Cultivated – Tea
Elevation –  3374 Mtrs.
Average Annual Rainfall – 2601 mm
Average Annual Rainy days – 161
District – Kandy/Nuwaraeliya
Nearest Town/Distance – Deltota/08km
Nearest Railway Station/Distance – Kandy/46km
Tel No – 0815631550
Fax – 0815676455
Email – lc604jedb@gmail.com

Loolecondera: The Birthplace Of Ceylon Tea

The very first patch of tea was planted at Loolkandura Estate in the Kandy district as a test after the failure of a coffee plantation in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). With the wild success of this plantation, then 21-year-old planter James Taylor who was in charge of this plantation has been forever immortalized and has become a part of the post-colonization history of Sri Lanka.

Taylor had signed on for three years as an assistant supervisor on a coffee plantation in Ceylon in 1852. The sixteen-year-old Scot, son of a modest wheelwright, would never see his native land again. Five years after he took up his post, his employers, Harrison and Leake, impressed by the quality of his work, put Taylor in charge of the Loolkandura Estate (then Loolecondera Estate) and instructed him to experiment with tea plants. The Peradeniya nursery supplied him with his first seeds around 1860. He cleared 19 acres of forest in Hewaheta Lower and planted the first seedlings which became such a success which finally caused his downfall as well.

With Ceylon Tea becoming so popular, large tea companies flocked into the “Ceylon Tea” market and started consolidating small Estates. The small Loolkandura (Loolecondera) Estate too was caught in this consolidation and Taylor was eventually dismissed by the estate management.

On 2nd May 1892, aged 57 years, one year after being dismissed, Taylor passed away due to severe gastroenteritis and dysentery. His body was buried in the Mahaiyawa Cemetery in Kandy. As a tribute to the man who brought little known Ceylon to world recognition with the  “Ceylon Tea” brand,  Loolkandura Estate has now restored several locations used by James Taylor including the very first tea patch opened to the general public. Here you can see Taylor’s Seat, a rock seat used by James Taylor which gives a fantastic view of the surrounding mountain ranges, The chimney of the log cabin which was used by Taylor (only remaining part of the cabin), The well-used by Taylor and the very first patch of tea which was planted by Taylor now known as the No.7 field of the Loolkandura (Loolecondera) Estate.

One unique decision of James Taylor is the naming of the Estate. When all other planters who set up estates named them with English names close to their hearts Taylor named his estate “Loolecondera”, by the local name of the area Loolkandura as he spelled it. To visit this Estate, traveling from Kandy, take the Galaha Road (B364) and continue on the road for 34 kilometers passing Hindagala, Mahakanda, Galaha, and Deltota to reach the entrance to the Loolkandura (Loolecondera) Estate. To reach these the above landmarks you need to travel a further 4 km inside the estate on winding roads.

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One of the Longest Tea Factory in Sri Lanka at Loolecondera Estate

In addition to the proud history of Loolecondera Estate being the first tea plantation in Sri Lanka, this estate also one of the longest tea factories in the country (length 325 ft). It was established in 1923 and is in use since then, continuing to manufacture some of the finest teas from Sri Lanka..

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Loolecondera Estate Extent

(* ALL FIGURES IN HECTARES)

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James Taylor - The Legend of Ceylon Tea

Loolecondera is no ordinary plantation, for it was here that James Taylor made the first successful attempt to grow and process tea in Ceylon. Indeed he pioneered the commercial cultivation of the world’s favorite brew on the Island, so Loolecondera Estate will forever be associated with the birth of Ceylon Tea.

Tea became Sri Lanka’s premier agricultural product in the late 19th Century because the main plantation crop until that time, coffee, had been crippled by a fungus known as “Devastating Emily”. Fortunately, George Thwarts, Director of the renowned Royal Botanic Gardens at Peradeniya, realised the potential danger that coffee monoculture posed. During the 1850s and 60s, he advocated experimentation with other crops, especially tea, which culminated with the arrival at Peradeniya of some Assam tea seeds.

Thwarts gave most to James Taylor, one of many Scottish coffee planters, probably because he had already established the cultivation in Ceylon of the cinchona tree, the bark of which was used to manufacture the anti-malarial drug quinine. Taylor, son of a humble wheelwright, was born near Aberdeen and arrived in Ceylon in 1852 at the age of 17. He was originally posted as an assistant supervisor to Naranghena Estate but was soon transferred to the adjoining estate, Loolecondera.

Taylor found the estate undeveloped – all that had been achieved was the cutting down and burning of the timber. From his correspondence, we learn that the initial shack he built at Loolecondera exemplified the harsh living conditions experienced by pioneer planters. It was “constructed of a few posts about the corners with boards nailed across, with about a foot of opening between them and the thatch . . . when the light is out at night rats from the jungle come looking for something to eat, and when the wind blows a perfect hurricane in the bungalow.”

Taylor was entrusted with the task of clearing the stony ground characteristic of Loolecondera, planting coffee, and constructing access roads. Remarkably, Loolecondera was operational within a year. Well-built and strong, he earned the respect of his workforce despite his tender age. From the start, he sought fresh ideas to improve plantation profitability. His chance came in 1857 when the new owners of Loolecondera showed an interest in diversification. So it was that he began to cultivate cinchona.

But it was Taylor’s experimentation with tea that was to ensure his name, and that of Loolecondera Estate would forever be associated with the birth of what would quickly become a world-famous brand, Ceylon Tea. In 1867, Taylor, now the estate’s superintendent, cleared 19 acres (7.5 hectares) of forest and planted his Assam tea in what is known as Field No. 7. In the first years, he had to learn how to nurture the seedlings so that they grew into healthy, mature plants. Then he had to learn the art of plucking and teach it to Tamil women from southern India who had never seen tea bushes.

What distinguished Taylor’s experiment was his ability not only to grow tea on a commercial scale but also to master its processing. This was initially achieved in the verandah of the bungalow he had built to replace the shack. Here the leaf was rolled on tables by hand, from wrists to elbow, and fired in clay stoves. The result was a delicious tea that was sold in Kandy at Rs 1.50 per lb (Rs 3.30 per kilo).

However, in a major development towards the realisation of tea industry in Ceylon, Taylor built a fully-equipped tea factory in 1872 with a waterwheel 20 feet (six metres) in diameter to supply power that dipped into a stream. The most important aspect was the rolling machine Taylor had invented: an essential part of tea processing is crushing the leaves to release the juice and enzymes that provide flavour. (This rolling machine and other machinery from Taylor’s factory are on display at the Tea Museum, Hantana, near Kandy.)

These pioneering efforts could not have been timelier, for in 1869 the coffee blight had been detected. George Thwarts warned of possible calamity, but little notice was taken until “Devastating Emily” began to spread from estate to estate, forcing planters to abandon large areas. Many faced financial ruin and returned home. The rest soon realized that tea could be their salvation and the task of switching industries began in earnest.

In 1873 Taylor sent a package of Loolecondera tea to London, but it wasn’t until 1875 that regular consignments began when 1,438lbs (653 kilos) were exported. In 1878 Ceylon tea made its first appearance at the London auctions, much of it from estates other than Loolecondera. The Loolecondera mark first arrived in London in 1881, but Taylor may well have been shipping for private sale before then. From that time onwards tea export increased exponentially.

After devoting 40 years to Loolecondera – his only break was a trip to Darjeeling to learn more about tea growing – Taylor became a victim of his own success, for the rapid growth of the industry meant that large companies became involved, leaving small planters like himself vulnerable. In April 1892 he was ordered to take sick leave by the Loolecondera Estate management. Being perfectly healthy he refused and was asked to resign. He contracted dysentery soon afterwards and died within days at the estate.

24 men carried Taylor’s coffin the 18 miles (34km) to Kandy, two gangs of 12 taking turns. The kanganies (overseers) and labourers, who called him sami dorai (‘the master who is god’), followed. Taylor was buried in the Mahaiyawa Cemetery near Kandy. The inscription on his tombstone reads: “In pious memory of James Taylor, of Loolecondera Estate, Ceylon, the Pioneer of the Tea and Cinchona Enterprises in this Island, who died May 2, 1892, aged 57 years.”

“Words” – Richard Boyle.