Located in the Indian Ocean, in the central hub of the Asian shipping and trade lanes, Sri Lanka is one of the smallest islands with one of the largest tea industries in the world. Pure Ceylon tea, both black tea and green tea, is a resource of rejuvenation, refreshment and good health. Every stage of tea production, from the first stage of hand plucking the leaves to individual packaging of each bag, is done with traditional tea making process while incorporating international standards into the manufacturing process. The attention to detail by tea blenders and other professionals is where Sri Lankan heritage is passed into a cup of tea held around the world.
The country first started tea plantations during the British colonial era. With their efforts and development of the plantations and the infrastructure for transport, the industry began to thrive. Since then, Sri Lanka has throughout been maintaining the highest standards of tea required by the world over. The Pure Ceylon Tea logo in a box is a standard depiction that the tea is of Pure Sri Lankan origin.
TYPES OF CEYLON TEA
According to history, Sri Lanka was a coffee growing country and it suffered heavily prior to the introduction of tea. As a result many coffee estates were converted to tea plantations in the entire island. However in the beginning with the British governor, Edward Barnes, who sought to develop the coffee export industry started cultivating the plant in the hills of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka became the worlds’ largest coffee exporter in the 1870’s. A disease known as coffee rust wiped out the plantation sector in the same decade. As a result in an effort to transform the hills into a productive resource was required.
With time, Ceylon black tea became popular around the world and was loved by many back in the west. As a result the Scot planter named James Taylor implemented the tea plantation venture to supply the world market with one of the most popular beverages in the world up to date, next to water! The industry and plantations began to thrive on the demand of the special tea grown in various altitudes of Sri Lanka. With investment in time and effort the coffee plantations were replanted over lengthy time and today you can see the results as you go past the luscious hills dotted with hundreds of thousands of tea plants. Ceylon tea has been produced for centuries in traditional methods which were developed by the first successful planters. Methods and factories have been refined and standardized to maintain the highest quality of Premium Black Tea in the world market. The demand for Pure Ceylon Tea keeps growing as the distinct and unique flavors are a key to blending the right taste for every tea connoisseur.
HISTORY OF TEA
· 1824 ·
The first tea-plant was brought from China and planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya.
· 1867 ·
James Taylor started Sri Lanka’s first tea plantation of 19 acres in the Loolecondera estate in Kandy, and subsequently constructed a tea factory on his estate in 1872.
· 1873 ·
The first shipment of 10kg of tea arrived in London.
· 1883 ·
On July 30th the first public Colombo Tea Auction was held through Somerville & Co.
· 1884 ·
Construction of the Central Tea Factory on the Fairyland Estate in the central NuwaraEliya region.
· 1888 ·
Sri Lanka’s black tea tea production increased significantly and by 1888 the total area under cultivation, 400,000 acres, exceeded that of coffee. By the late 1880s, almost all of Sri Lanka’s coffee plantations had converted to cultivating tea. Coffee stores were also rapidly converting to tea factories to meet this demand.
· 1893 ·
1million tea packets were sold at the Chicago World’s Fair. Also that year, Sri Lankan tea reached the record price of 36.15 per lb at the London Tea Auctions.
· 1927 ·
Tea production exceeded 100,000 metric tons, almost all of which was exported.
· 1932 ·
The Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board was formed.
· 1934 ·
A law prohibiting the export of poor quality tea was enacted.
· 1960s ·
Total tea production and exports exceeded 200,000 metric tons produced over 200,000 hectares.
· 1963 ·
Production and exports of instant tea was introduced.
· 1965 ·
Sri Lanka became the world’s largest black tea exporter.
· 1966 ·
The first international Tea Convention was held to commemorate 100 years of Sri Lanka’s tea industry.
· 1971 - 1972 ·
The government of Sri Lanka nationalised the tea estates previously owned by British companies, acquiring some 502 tea, rubber and coconut estates. Land reforms meant that no cultivator was allowed to own more than 50acres for any purpose.
· 1980 ·
Sri Lanka became the official tea supplier at the Moscow Summer Olympic Games.
· 1981 ·
Imports commenced for blending and re-exports, and the production of green tea for export began.
· 1992 ·
Sri Lanka celebrated the 125th anniversary of the tea sector!
· 1992 - 1993 ·
Many of the government-owned tea estates which had been nationalised in the early 1970s were again privatised.
· 1996 ·
Tea production exceeded 250,000 metric tons, providing 23% of the world’s tea.
· 2000 ·
Sri Lanka’s tea production reached over 300,000 metric tons by the millennium.
· 2001 ·
First online sales of tea began, sold by Forbes & Walker Ltd., at the Colombo Tea Auctions. In the same year, despite falling prices in every major tea exporting country and increasing competition, Sri Lanka retained its position as the world’s top tea exporter. A record 294 million kg were sold in 2001, compared to 288 million kg the previous year.
· 2002 ·
A tea museum was established in Kandy and the Tea Association of Sri Lanka was formed.
· 2008 ·
Total production hit a record 318.47 million kg, up from 305.2 million kg in 2007. Export earnings struck a record high of $1.23 billion for the year, up from $1.02 billion in 2007.
FROM PLANT TO POT
Tea plantations are very unique visually, planted in patterns of lines and spirals and circles, they cover most of the hillsides of Sri Lanka. Steep slopes are terraced for puckers to walk around in and hand select the best leaves. They pluck two leaves and a bud by hand, these leaves contain the best aroma. After which the leaves are collected and certain collection points, weighed and then laid out to remove the moisture from the environment. After which the process of rolling and fermentation begins to prepare the enzymes in the broken leaves to react and ferment them to the appropriate levels. While these leaves go through the fermentation process, great care is taken to maintain the correct conditions in order to give the finest results.
As this fermentation process oxidizes the leaves, the color changes from green to red. Once the correct level of fermentation and oxidization is reached the leaves are artificially warned and treated with fire to stop the process. This final process of heating the leaves at the correct temperature ensures the quality of black tea and green tea. At this stage the leaves turn the distinct black you find in the tea you drink.
The next process involves the separation of tea leaves by size and breakup of the leaf. This is called the grading of tea. Tea grading separates leaves by shapes and size using special sifting machinery. The final leftover tea which is below the benchmark set by the Tea Board of Sri Lanka is excluded from production or auctions. Once the factory completed the sorting process, they are segregated and the information is sent to the weekly tea auctions in Colombo. Where buyers eagerly await the samples for selection.
Ceylon Tea is a finer produce from Sri Lanka, where there is a specific authority monitoring and maintaining regular standards. Each shipment and sample are checked and validated to ensure that every drop of tea exported maintains the best quality which has been regulated over centuries.
ART OF BLENDING
When it comes to the world tea market, every country or region has a specific preference in the character of tea they drink. The art of selecting the correct grade of tea and blending it to the required taste is the skill of the tea blending professionals. These tea tasters have developed a keen sense of taste and smell and are able to distinguish tea from each other, be it black tea, green tea, white tea or even herbal tea. For black tea orders globally, tea must be blended to the clients specific requirements, which is a two way process of communicating and sending and receiving samples and approvals.
Tea is then bought at the auctions in order to satisfy the orders received. Once the tea blend is approved, samples are sent to buyers for their approval. At this point the process of packing and shipping begins.
ADVANTAGES OF TEA
Known as the drink to welcome a guest in millions of homes around the world, tea is a fine or a pure beverage. It offers the highest form or respect and welcome to a guest in ones’ home. It is a tradition that has passed down over centuries from generation to generation.
In todays’ world, almost every item you come across has excessive unhealthy ingredients which overstep the daily human requirements. Be it sugar, salt or even MSG’s. Tea however is pure and held equally around the world.
Black tea has become one of the most popular beverages in the entire world. Soothing and refreshing it is known to give a positive effect to the drinker and also set a mood and pace at which the mind can relax. Tea is drink not only culturally, or even offered as tradition but it is known mostly for its health benefits.
The underlying health benefits are in its herbal value. Filled with vitamins and high in anti-oxidants, the beverage is growing popularity with increase in the need for healthy living. The drink has zero calories and is known to be beneficial for reasons other than hydration. With positive effects on the mind, heart, circulatory and digestive system it is considered a silent medicine.
The seven tea growing regions of Sri Lanka produces the best of Ceylon Tea. They are Kandy, Nuwaraeliya, Uda Pussellawa, Uva, Dimbula, Sabaragamuwa and Ruhuna. Eeach of the regions are known for producing teas of a particular character, unique to it's own regional conditions.