It was in 1824 that the first tea plant was brought from China by the British and planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, Kandy. It is considered to be the first non-commercial tea crop to be grown in the country. Close to two decades later, in 1867 James Taylor, a Scotsman was given the task of growing tea on just 19 acres of land in Loolecondera Estate in Kandy.
THE ‘CEYLON TEA’ STORY
This is considered the first commercial crop of tea to be grown. With the devastating coffee blight that swept through the coffee plantations, coffee cultivators moved over to tea as an alternative commercial crop. Taylor was eager to experiment with tea soon set up his own tea ‘factory’ probably the first in the country in the verandah of his bungalow in Loolecondera Estate. Here the leaves were rolled by hand on tables and the firing done on clay stoves over charcoal fires, with wire trays to air the leaves. The end result was a delicious tea, probably the first commercial cup to be brewed. Taylor later created basic machinery for rolling the leaves, had many people to support him process the tea, and a year later he sent the 23 pounds of tea to London. Taylor continued to develop the tea industry with his innovative thinking until he died in 1892 at the age of fifty-seven.
After James Taylor
Nearly 200 years after the first commercial tea crop was planted in Sri Lanka by James Taylor, Tea production grew rapidly with all coffee plantations being converted to tea. With this, the country saw a dramatic increase in tea production growing to nearly 400,000 acres in around 1899. British personalities such as Randolph Trafford considered a pioneer planter with vast knowledge on tea cultivation arrived in the country to work closely with the numerous tea estates. Coffee stores were converted to tea factories so as to accommodate the first “Sirocco” tea dryer by Samuel C. Davidson in 1877 and the first tea rolling machine by John Walker & Co in 1880.
In addition to the newly installed machinery, many new tea factories which included Fairy Land Estate (Pedro) in Nuwara Eliya were constructed along with the introduction of innovative methods of mechanization brought from England. With the popularity of tea growing, it soon began selling at the tea auctions. The first such public auction was held at the premises of Somerville & Co. in July 1883 under the auspices of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. One million tea packets were sold at the Chicago World Fair in 1893, with tea establishing a record price of £36.15/pound at the London Tea Auctions.
In 1894 the Ceylon tea Traders Association was formed and today most of the tea produced in Sri Lanka is vended through it and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. Adding further value to the industry, in 1896 the Colombo Brokers Association was formed and in 1925 the Tea Research Institute was established. By 1927 tea production in the country exceeded 100,000 metric tons produced entirely for export. In 1932 the Tea Propaganda Board was formed and in 1958 the State Plantations Corporation was established.
By 1960 the tea production and exports exceeded 200,000 hectares and 200,000 metric tons respectively. In 1966 the first International Tea Convention was held to commemorate 100 years of tea in Sri Lanka. In 1996, Sri Lanka’s Tea Production exceeded 250,000 metric tons, increasing to 300,000 metric tons by the year 2000. It was followed by the establishment of The Tea Museum in Kandy and in 2002 the Tea Association was formed.
JEDB Tea Estates
Currently, we have 16 Tea estates under JEDB fall into 03 main groups.
- Galaha Group
- Hewaheta Group
- Nawalapitiya Group
JEDB Tea Extent
(* ALL FIGURES IN HECTARES)
Illustrations of the tea plant, its flower, and seed.
Camellia sinensis (Or, the green, white, black tea plant, etc.)
The plant ” Thea Sinensis ” (as it was known in the beginning but had its name updated), of the genus Camellia, is subdivided within its Chinese variation ( Camellia sinensis sinensis) and the Indian variation ( Camellia sinensis assamica). We still have Camellia sinensis lasiocalyx (Cambodia), said to be a mixture of the two previous varieties. The Camellia sinensis sinensis ( sinensis means Chinese in Latin) is a bush leaves with an average size of 5 cm, while the variety assamica (as well aslasiocalyx ) is a tree up to 18 m tall, with large leaves, reaching up to 35 cm. The Cambodian variation is used for the reproduction of hybrids and, today, there are many sub-varieties of the plant out there, just take a look at the ingredients that appear in the tea packaging and you will see the various scientific names that appear on the market. Another fact to be mentioned is that, although the Chinese plant is a shrub, there are large wild tea trees in the middle of China, hundreds of years old, which have reached great proportions through the ages.
TEA GROWING REGIONS
Tea is grown in slopes at three different elevations
- High grown – 4000 ft above sea level.
- Mid- grown – between 2000 ft. and 4000 ft.
- Low grown – below 2000 ft.
From the seven tea regions of Sri Lanka, come the seven flavors of Ceylon Tea. Each blessed with its distinctive appeal to seduce and pamper palates that demand an array of choices. Lightest to strongest, full-bodied to mild-mannered, a cup of Ceylon Tea is nothing but the finest.
Cup of Tea In Different Countries
“Any time is Tea Time” is the famous slogan and ‘Tea’ is to-day, a universal beverage consumed for its health benefits as well. Given below is how ‘Tea’ is enjoyed in some of the countries around the world.
Matcha is finely milled or fine powder green tea. The Japanese tea ceremony centers on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha.
Tea in India has a long history in traditional systems of medicine and for consumption. One of the most popular brews, the Indian Masala Chai, is made of strong black Indian tea that is infused with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger
In Britain, the drinking of tea is so diverse that generalizing is quite difficult. While it is usually served with milk, it is not uncommon to drink it black or with lemon, with sugar being a popular addition. Even very slightly formal events can be a cause for cups and saucers to be used instead of mugs
Turkish tea, called çay (pronounced Chai), is black tea which is consumed without milk. It is considered by many as an obsession, as the tea is served everywhere and for most meals. The hot crimson drink is typically served with two tiny sugar cubes in a tulip-shaped glass on a saucer and a little spoon to stir
Butter tea, also known as po cha in Tibet, is made from churning tea, salt, and yak butter. The tea used for po cha is a particularly potent, smoky type of black tea from Pemagul, Tibet. The drink, with its salty, oily and sometimes rancid flavor, which makes it an acquired taste, is the national beverage
Mint tea, the national Moroccan drink, is almost a requirement in social situations. Some travel across the world just to sample authentic Moroccan tea. The preparation of the beverage, a process referred to as atai, is part of the tradition and is often done in front of the guests
Hong Kong milk tea is also known as “pantyhose tea” or “silk stocking tea” because it is often brewed in a large tea sock that resembles pantyhose. It has a smooth, creamy texture thanks to the evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk
Oolong tea is the main type of tea that is produced and consumed in Taiwan. Taiwanese oolongs are considered the finest by some tea connoisseurs, hailed as the “Champagne of tea”
Kuwaiti tea is just regular hot tea, but many families add some flavors to it such as saffron or mint
Tea has had a rich history in Russia. Due in part to the cold climate, it is today considered the de facto national beverage and is closely associated with traditional Russian culture. The drink is typically served at the end of meals, along with dessert. Tea brewing in Russia is done with a device known as a samovar
The local name for tea is chai, and has become embedded in the culture of Pakistan. If you’re lucky enough to visit a Pakistani bazaar you will notice that the shopkeepers drink tea on tap, quite literally
Thai iced tea or cha-yen (literally “cold tea”) is a drink made from strongly brewed Ceylon tea, mixed with condensed milk and sugar and then topped with evaporated milk. When sold from market stalls in Thailand, the drink is poured over crushed ice in a clear plastic bag or tall plastic cups
In addition to being a drink, Chinese tea is used in traditional Chinese medicine and cuisine. According to popular legend, tea was discovered by Chinese Emperor Shennong when a leaf from a nearby shrub fell into water the emperor was boiling
Egyptians are well-known for being big tea drinkers. Their national Egyptian drink is called Karkadeh tea, which is a sweet-sour drink of bright red color, made of dried Sudanese rose flower bracts. You can drink it both hot and cold
Mongolian tea is not at all similar to other fine teas. The Mongolian variation is prepared with salt and may include solid food like rice or noodles. What makes it unique is that it uses the more coarse parts of the plant. The savory drink is served in a shallow metal bowl alongside most meals
Kenyan tea has been the leading major foreign exchange earner for the country. Most of the tea produced is black tea. Professional blenders love Kenyan tea for its bright copper color and “brisk” flavor, as well as its characteristic perky liveliness
The Rooibos plant produces a bright red tea and is found exclusively in South Africa. It is common to prepare rooibos tea in the same manner as black tea and add milk and sugar to taste. Other methods include a slice of lemon and using honey instead of sugar to sweeten
In Qatar, strong milky tea called karak chai is a nationwide favourite. Karak is tea with milk, but prepared by boiling the tea leaves twice to make the flavor stronger
Mauritanian Tea comes with a specific serving ritual. As a guest you are served three times. Each glass that is served is prepared from scratch, i.e. fresh tea, water, mint and lots of sugar, increasing the sweetness of every new cup. The objective is to start bitter and end sweet
Teh tarik (literally “pulled tea”), is a hot milk tea beverage that holds a special place in the hearts of Southeast Asians. Its name is derived from the pouring process of “pulling” the drink during preparation. It is made from black tea, condensed milk and/or evaporated milk. It is also considered as the national drink of Malaysia
Yerba mate (pronounced mah-tay) is a vitamin-packed green tea grown and drank throughout South America. It has a signature earthy, smoky flavor and is served in a neat little container and shared around groups, making it a very social experience (even if you don’t really like the taste)
Iced tea from the American South is usually prepared from bagged tea. In addition to tea bags and loose tea, powdered “instant iced tea mix” is available in stores. The consumption of sweet tea with many meals leads to it sometimes called the “table wine of the South”