With the Ceylon tea industry celebrating 150 years this week, we thought we would highlight five interesting facts about Ceylon tea and the island of Sri Lanka.
- Coffee was originally planted by the British as the crop that would be used, via export, to pay for this strategic military outpost. Luckily, tea seeds and plants where brought onto the island in the 1840’s for testing by the local botanical garden as an additional crop that could be exported from the island. It wasn’t until 1867 that the first tea plantation went into production, which was fortunate. In the 1870’s, rust would wipe out the coffee plantations in Sri Lanka, at which point the coffee growers ripped out the coffee plantations and replaced them with tea. Without this rust outbreak, Ceylon tea may never had taken off.
- First batch of tea grown in Ceylon arrived in England in 1872.
- 1 million packets of Ceylon tea were sold at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.
- Sir Thomas Lipton, yes the founder of Lipton tea, had his plantations in Sri Lanka. Lipton tea is no longer grown there (It is grown in Argentina for consumers in North America and Africa for the European market. Lipton will still buy Ceylon tea at auction periodically but they do not own any plantations in Sri Lanka.)
- Ceylon tea is typically black tea and can come as both a single estate tea, like Vithanakanda, or a mix of small farms that share a manufacturing facility as in our Ceylon OP1. Periodically you can find a green tea from the island that stands up to the greens from China, like Royal Ceylon Gunpowder.
As an American, you have probably had Ceylon tea even if you were not aware of it. Ceylon tea is judged for its malty flavor with a brisk finish that is toward the back of your mouth.