Sri Lanka has over 188,000 hectares under tea cultivation yielding about 298,000 tonnes of “made” tea, and accounting for more than 19% of world exports. In 1972, the island then known as Ceylon reverted to the traditional name of Sri Lanka, but retained the brand name of Ceylon for the marketing of its teas.
Tea from Sri Lanka falls into three categories: low-grown (on estates up to an elevation of 2,000ft); medium grown (on elevations between 2,000 and 4,000 ft); and high grown (elevations above 4,000 ft). Each level produces teas of unique character. By blending teas from different areas of the island and at varied elevations, Sri Lanka can offer a very wide range of flavour and colour. Some are full-bodied, others light and delicate, but all Ceylon blends will have brisk, full flavours and bright golden colour.
Because of its geographical location, tea can be plucked in Sri Lanka all year round – the west and east of the island are separated by central mountains so that as each region’s season ends, the other begins. Below are descriptions of the three high grown regions.
Probably the most famous of Ceylon teas, Dimbula is cultivated on estates first planted with tea when their coffee crops failed in 1870. Grown 5,000ft above sea level, all Dimbula teas are light and bright in colour with a crisp strong flavour that leaves the mouth feeling fresh and clean. Today, it forms part of the high-grown zone of central Sri Lanka which includes Dickoya and Nuwara Eliya.
Example – Kenilworth Estate This tea has long wiry beautiful leaves that give an exquisite, almost oaky taste with good body and strength.
Uva is a fine flavoured tea grown at altitudes between 2,000ft and 4,000ft above sea level onthe eastern slopes of the central mountains in Sri Lanka. It has a bright, deep amber colour when brewed, with thebrisk andcrisp, strong Ceylon flavour. These teas are also used in Ceylon blendand make an ideal morning drink or an after-lunch tea.
Example – St James Estate This is a copper-coloured infusion with a very smooth, pronounced taste and a wonderful aroma. It is a perfect breakfast or day time tea.
Nuwara Eliya Region
Nuwara Eliya teas are light and delicate in character, bright in colour and with a fragrant flavour. Their flavour is heightened when taken with lemon rather than milk.
Example – Nuwara Eliya Estate This tea has a bright brisk flavour and a wonderful perfume, good to drink at any time of day with just a dash of milk.
Ceylon tea is a prized form of black tea from Sri Lanka. It has a golden color and rich, intense flavor which many tea consumers greatly appreciate, and it is used straight as well as in tea blends. Sri Lanka is one of the largest tea producers in the world, and Ceylon tea can be found all over the world as a result. Particularly fine highland varieties can also get quite costly, as they have a rich taste and strong aroma favored by some consumers.
Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon under colonialism, and the name has stuck for the tea. Tea was first introduced to the country as a crop in 1867, to replace a devastated coffee crop. Tea producers quickly began to produce tea with a unique flavor and color, and Ceylon tea began to experience high demand. The majority of Ceylon tea is grown in the highlands of the country, with lower elevation teas being used as filler in tea blends.
Six regions of Ceylon produce tea: Ruhuna, Kandy, Dimulla, Uva, Uda Pussellawa and Nuwara Eliya. Ceylon tea is often identified by the region is was grown in, and each area’s tea tastes distinctly different, with the best harvests coming in February, March, August, and September. The tea leaves are carefully selected for optimal flavor and meticulously oxidized to make classic black tea. After oxidation, the tea is roasted and prepared for sale at packaging facilities.
Since Ceylon tea is associated with quality, the Sri Lanka Tea Board brands genuine Ceylon tea with a stamp of a lion carrying a sword. This lion logo is only used on teas grown and packed in Sri Lanka, and the teas are also tested for quality to ensure that they adequately represent the tea heritage of Sri Lanka. This marketing measure was undertaken to support a gourmet market for Ceylon tea, which tastes best when brewed in loose-leaf form. Since many consumers prefer teabags for convenience, the Tea Board wanted to increase the appeal of their product with a cohesive brand and a luxury feel.
Ceylon Tea is exported as loose leaf tea and it can also be ordered through specialty importers, or enjoyed in tea blends which combine several varieties of tea, including Ceylon tea. The tea classically brews strong, dark, and flavorful, with complex hints of orange and spice. Like other black teas, Ceylon tea contains caffeine.