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.
Sri Lanka is one of the most famous countries to produce tea and is one of the most fabulously enjoyed beverages in Sri Lanka. For hundreds of years people consumed tea for its medicinal qualities. Tea for us is literally second to water, every single person in our Nation enjoys at least three cups a day, and that is just minimally. Every occasion is celebrated with a cup of tea, and we would not substitute it for anything else.
Tea as a brew is a luminous coloured liquid which possesses a pleasing aroma and is a delicious and fragrant beverage taken hot or cold. But what really lies behind this beverage which has managed to retain, and indeed, increase its popularity over millennia?
The tea plant (Camellia sinensis) is a species of tree related to the Camellia. Its flowers are yellow-white which bear small, hard-shelled fruits, similar to a hazelnut. The evergreen leaves are leathery, dark and slightly serrated. Given minimum annual temperatures of 18C, moderate and infrequent frosts, a uniform annual precipitation of 1,600mm and a good balance of sunshine, a tea plant can easily grow to become 100 years old. In fact, wild tea plants are reputed to reach an age of up to 1,700 years.
Thea sinensis (Chinese tea): A shrub-like plant which reaches a maximum height of 3 to 4m and can even survive frosts.
Thea assamica (Assam tea): A substantial tree reaching a height of 15-20m and growing exclusively in the tropics. The constant crossing of these two original plants forms the basis of all the tea cultures in the world today.
The cheapest and most consumed beverage worldwide after water is also one of the most valuable in terms of its chemical composition – approximately 32% of its ingredients pass into the infusion. These ingredients include Polyphenols as the primary antioxidants present in tea, important amino acids like theanine, as well as fluorides.
“Until the 1860's the main crop produced in Sri Lanka was Coffee but in 1869 a fungus destroyed the crop so the estate owners had to diversify into other crops. Firstly a tea plant was brought to Sri Lanka from China and was planted in the Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, this was planted for non-commercial purposes. In 1867 James Taylor planted 19 acres of tea in the Loolecondera estate in Kandy, and there in on tea became a commercially used crop in Sri Lanka. In 1872, James Taylor started a fully equipped tea factory in the same estate and in the same year he made the first sale of tea in Kandy. In 1873 the first international sale of tea was made, a shipment consisting of 23lb's of tea was sent to an auction in London.”
The rapid growth and popularity of tea, lead to it being sold at several auctions. The first public auction of tea was held at Somerville & Co in July 1883. and then went on to being sold at auctions held worldwide, a total sum of one million tea packets were sold in the Chicago World Fair in 1893. The Ceylon Tea Traders association was formed in 1894 and today all tea produced in Sri Lanka is conducted by this association along with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. Later in 1896 the Colombo Broker's Association was formed and in 1915 the first Ceylonese was appointed as the Chairman of the Planter's Association, his name was Thomas Amarasuriya.
In 1980 the official supplier of tea for the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympic Games was Sri Lanka, and again in 1982 for the 12th Commonwealth Games held Brisbane and alter on in 1987 at the Expo 88 in Australia.
Sri Lanka is blessed with diverse climatic conditions and our pioneer tea planters realized the effect on these diverse conditions on tea production. This gave rise to a wide range of teas which are unique to to each other in style, taste and character from different agro climatic districts. The teas produced from these districts are referred to by Tea Trade as teas from “ Dimbula, Uva, Nuwara Eliya, Uda Pussellawa, Kandy and Ruhuna”. The true connoisseurs may select teas from a sub district or even a single garden where the uniqueness is unmatched.
Sri Lanka has over 188,000 hectares under tea cultivation yielding about 298,000 tones of "made" tea, and accounting for more than 19% of world exports. Skillfully plucking the tea leaf is essential to the final quality of the tea, the two leaves and a bud, that is where the flavor and the aroma of tea is present, and this is plucked by women. Sri Lanka id one of the few countries that each leaf is plucked by hand instead of machinery, if they were to use machinery some of the coarse leaves as twigs would be mixed with the proper leaves which could destroy the flavor of the tea. The skillful women pluck around 15 to 20 kilos of tea leaves to be weighed and sent to the nearby tea factories.
This agro climatic district is the most famous name in Ceylon Tea and is considered the prime planting district in Sri Lanka. The district covers an extensive area from around 3500ft to 5000ft above sea level in the western slopes of the country. The mountains and the valleys extend from Bogawantalwa and Maskeliya bordering the Adams Peak wilderness , to Hatton,Dickoya and Talawakelle, Nanuoya up too the western boundary of Nuwara Eliya. It also extend up to Agrapatana bordering the Horton Planes. The district receives the south western monsoonal rains which has an impact on the quality of the Dimbula Tea , the cold nights and dry weather from January to March bring about a rage of teas from full bodied to light delicate flavor in different valleys.
The sub district which falls within the Dimbula Agro Climatic District are,
Hatton / Dickoya/Bogawantalwa -also known as the “Golden Valley”
Upcot / Maskeliya -which is at the foothills of sacred Adams Peak Mountain
Patana/ Kotagala/ Nanu oya / Talawakelle,/Agrapatana -situated more towards the eastern range,
Punadaluu Oya/Ramboda -famous for the breathtaking waterfalls.
Uva Agro Climaticc Plantingdistrictct is situated in eastern slopes of the central hills of Sri Lanka and tea is grown from 3000 to 5000ft above mean sea level. The district is famous for its distinctive flavour and pungency during the Quality season form July to September each year which are sought after by the connoisseurs of tea world over. The sub districtsMalwatte / Welimada -well known world over for the teas of pungent character produced during the quality season
Uda Pussellawa mountain range rise up from the boundary of Uva Districtat the lower end and joins up to Nuwara Eliya Planting District at highest point. It receives the North East Monsoon rains as in the Uva District but does not produce teas of same quality and flavour as in the Uva.
The estates closer to the Nuwara Eliya benefit from the cold weather conditions and is famous for producing a tea with “Rosy Liquor”.
The sub districts are
Maturata and Ragala / Halgran Oya.
Nuwara Eliya is a plateau at an elevation of 6240ft above sea level. The cold weather and freshness of the air always scented with the fragrance of cypress that grows in abundance in the area no doubt helps in producing a tea that is sought after by connoisseurs of tea world over. The tea itself is light in cup with exquisite flavour and aroma.
The district can boast of the origin of the plantation industry in Sri Lanka, firstly Coffee and thereafter Tea. The plantations are spread out from elevation of 2000 – 4000ft above sea level and falls within the Mid Grown Elevation Category.
The product is of a full bodied, coloury and strong tea.
The sub districts are
Pussellawa / Hewaheta and Matale which includes plantations in Madulkelle, Knuckles and Rangala mountain range.
Tea grows from almost form the sea level to around 2000ft above, and is considered as low grown elevation category. The uniqueness of the tea is the blackness as well as the strength and character in the cup with stylish range of leafy teas.
The district is in the midst of the national heritage forest reservee “Sinharaja” a congenial atmosphere is created by this forest reserve for the plantations bordering thereserve..
The region mainly receives South West Monsoon rains, the tea bushes thrive in the warm weather conditions and the fertile soils of the district.
The sub districts are
Ratnapura/ Balangoda – This sub district is well pprotectedby the Sinharaja forest reserve form the strong winds that accompany South West Monsoon rains.
Deniyaya – Located to the south of Ratnapura.
Matara – Located to the south of Deniyaya.
Galle – Tea is grown in this sub district in the midst of fragrant spice cultivations, Rubber and also Oil Palm.
The 'Lion Logo' in the packages of the tea produced in Sri Lanka is an important factor. It is closely monitored by the Sri Lankan Tea board and if a manufacturer is to acquire this particular logo, they need to go through a series of inspections that are done by the Sri Lankan Tea Board and if they pass these inspections they are allowed to use the Lion Logo which depicts as 'Pure Ceylon Tea- Packed in Sri Lanka'.
Ceylon Tea is indeed exquisitely famous for its rich tastes and aromas, and it is made with a lot of care and love, so that everybody around the globe has the privilege of tasting such a wonderful beverage.
This production method consists of five stages – withering, rolling, fermentation, drying and sorting.
The freshly picked green leaves are spread out to dry on ventilated trays. During this process, approximately 63% moisture is extracted from the leaves, making them soft and pliable for further processing.
The leaves are then rolled by applying mechanical pressure to break up the cells and extract the cell sap. After 30 minutes, the leaves, still damp from the sap, are sieved to separate the finer leaves. These are spread out immediately for fermentation, while the remaining coarse leaves are rolled for a further 30 minutes under higher pressure. If necessary, this process is repeated several times. A short rolling time produces larger leaf grades, while longer rolling breaks the leaves up more resulting in smaller grades. During the rolling process, the cell sap runs out and reacts with oxygen, thus triggering the fermentation process. At the same time, the essential oils responsible for the aroma are released.
After rolling, the tea is spread out in layers approximately 10cm high for one to three hours in a cool, damp atmosphere to finish off the fermentation process. During this process, the substances contained in the cell sap oxidise. In this production phase, the green leaf gradually turns a copper colour. The colour and typical odour tell the person supervising the process how far the fermentation has progressed. Various chemical reactions cause the leaf to heat up during fermentation. It is critical for the quality of the tea that the fermentation process be interrupted at its peak, when the temperature is at its highest.
Next, the tea is dried with hot air at a temperature of approx. 850°C to 880°C in order to interrupt the oxidation process. The residual moisture is thereby extracted from the leaves, the extracted sap dries on the leaf and the copper-coloured leaf turns dark brown to black.
Finally, the dried tea is sieved to separate the different leaf grades. The orthodox production method provides teas of all leaf grades: leaf, broken, fannings and dust. Leaf grades only refer to the leaf size; however, they are not necessarily an indication of the quality of the tea.
Green tea comes from the same plant as black tea, but the fermentation process is prevented by heat treatment immediately after withering.
This process is only carried out where necessary. The necessity and duration of withering varies widely according to the desired type of tea.
This destroys the plant’s own enzymes so that the leaf will retain its green colour instead of turning “black”.
Rolling is performed manually or by machine depending on the type of tea. In some cases the leaf is rolled into artistic shapes following a tradition which dates back thousands of years.
For this purpose, the leaves are either stacked in hot-air rack driers or exposed to the natural heat of the sun.
Green tea is available in the same familiar grades – leaf, broken, fannings or dust – as black tea, depending on the production specification. Green tea is a strongly alkaline drink which protects the body from hyperacidity. It contains numerous tannins, minerals and vitamins.
This production method consists of five stages – withering, rolling/rotorvane/dhool/fermentation/extraction and sorting.
The leaf is withered for a minimum of 12 hours with a percentage ranging 42% to 47% depending on the climate condition and the type of teas.
The leaf is rolled initially for a period of 30 minutes by applying pressure. Thereafter the rolled leaf is charged through a 12” Rotorvane and then double passed through an 8” Rotorvane. The first dhool is extracted (finer particles) through the rolled breaker fitted with No. 7 and 8 measures. The extracted dhool is immediately spread on fermentation beds. The balance bulk tea is once again passed through a conveyor and is fed to another set of 8” Rotorvane for further maceration. The second dhool is extracted on the same type of roll breaker with the same mesh numbers. The second dhool is again sent for fermentation and kept separately. The same procedure of Rotorvane cut and roll breaking, and the extracting of finer dhool, is continued till such time the final bulk is reduced to 2% to 3%. The fermentation period varies from 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on the climate condition and the type of teas. The fermenting area is separately identified with humidifiers surrounding the area to control hygrometric differences.
10 to 15 minutes after firing the tea is passed through a stalk extractor and thereafter through a fibre extractor to extract whatever possible stalk and fibre from the black tea whilst the warmth is maintained in the fired dhools. This operation is undertaken in the drier room itself to maintain the warmth in the machines and therefore extract as much stalk and fibre as possible. The fired tea is then passed through a Middleton sorter to differentiate larger particles and smaller particles.
After different shading of the two types of particles, it passes through separately on to a Chota sifter for grading purposes. This sifter has 5 numbers of different measures to extract graded teas, such as Pekoe, BOP, BOPF, Dust-1, etc. The graded teas are subsequently transferred in to bins which are located in the sifting room. These bins are air-tight and lined with aluminium sheets to maintain the freshness of the graded tea. Almost all factories in Sri Lanka are equipped with bulkers to bulk the graded teas prior to packing. Once the teas are packed in to tea sacks these are stacked in the factory compound itself. The ex-estate catalogued teas are retained on the estate till such time the teas are sold at the Colombo auctions. The cataloguing and selling of teas takes approximately three weeks from the time of packing the teas. Once the teas are packed, off grades and dust grades are sent to brokers’ warehouses, where samples are drawn by the brokers and the teas are catalogued.
CTC stands for crushing, tearing and curling. Both the CTC and LTP methods are mainly used for the finer end of the scale, i.e. fanning and dust grades. These teas are usually destined for teabag production. The withered leaf is often cut to a uniform size by machine. Then the leaves are fed into the CTC machine where they are crushed, torn and curled in a single operation by metal rollers. The extracted cell sap is collected and added to the leaves again. The crushed leaves are then fermented, dried and sorted.
The third method of producing black tea is the LTP method, named after the inventor of the relevant machine, the Lawrie Tea Processor. In this method, the withered leaves are often levelled before being processed in the LTP machine. Here they are virtually torn to pieces by blades rotating at high speed. This is followed by the usual fermentation, drying and sorting procedures.
Why Does Tea Have Two Names Throughout the World? The English word tea and its many cousins (e.g. tay, thé, tey) trace their roots back to the name for tea in the Chinese Amoy dialect: Te (pronounced "tay"). On the other hand, cha – the Mandarin Chinese word for tea, gave birth to cha, chai, char and related names in use today.
Apparently, whichever variation merchants used when bringing tea to different countries stuck. Some countries use both. It's not unusual to hear someone in England ask for a "hot cup of cha."
You'll often read that Shen Nung, a Chinese emperor who lived some 4,700 years ago, discovered that tea leaves falling into boiling water made a refreshing drink. Alas, the emperor – credited with numerous discoveries in medicine, pharmacy, agriculture – is likely a myth himself. The earliest authenticated record of commercial cultivation of tea is found in 4th century Chinese documents. However, it is generally accepted that people in East Asia were brewing and drinking tea hundreds of years before. In those early days, tea was drunk mostly for medicinal purposes. Green tea leaves were formed into small cakes, roasted and then pounded into small chunks. Brewed tea must not have tasted very good because the drink was typically flavoured with ginger, onion, mint, and orange. Infusing tea leaves in a teapot became a widespread practice in China early during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644). Thus "modern tea drinking" is probably less than seven hundred years old.
Conventional wisdom holds that iced tea was invented in 1904, at the St. Louis World's Fair, by a British tea merchant named Richard Blechynden. While he may have helped popularise iced tea, "tea punches" – alcoholic ancestors of the drink – were served decades earlier in the United States, and at least one late 19th century cookbook includes a recipe for iced tea. Interestingly, about 80 percent of the tea served in the United States today is iced tea.
Legend has it that a New York City tea importer named Thomas Sullivan became annoyed at the high cost of the tin boxes he used to send tea samples to customers. So in 1904 (or by some accounts, 1908) he switched to small cloth bags. One of the recipients brewed a pot of tea by simply pouring hot water over the bag — and the rest is history. It's a nice story, except some tea experts point out that a U.S. patent for a "tea leaf holder made out of fabric" was granted in 1903. Regardless of who was really responsible, many tea lovers consider the teabag one of the worst inventions of the 20th century. Tea brewed with loose tea is generally much tastier than tea made from dunked teabags.
You can brew more than 200 cups of tea from one pound of loose tea leaves. That works out to less than ten cents a cup for quality tea brewed at home; even adding in the cost of heating the hot water. The low cost of tea is a big reason why it's the second most popular beverage throughout the world – second only to plain water.
A cup of brewed tea typically contains less than half the caffeine of a cup of coffee. If that remains a problem for you, it's easy to decaffeinate loose tea at home. Because caffeine is highly soluble in hot water, "rinsing" tea leaves gets rid of most of the caffeine. Begin brewing tea as usual, but then remove the leaves after twenty seconds. Discard the initial brew and start again with fresh boiling water and the now decaffeinated tea leaves.
The two most hummed tea songs are "Tea for Two," written by Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar in 1924 for the Broadway musical, "No, No, Nanette," and "When I Take My Sugar to Tea," penned in 1931 by Sammy Fain , Irving Kahal, and Pierre Norman.
Does green tea come from a different kind of plant than black tea? Surprisingly, even some botanists thought so during the 17th and 18th centuries. Back then, tea traders were not allowed to travel inside China and see how tea was produced. Tea plants and seeds were first obtained from China in the early 19th century, along with the know-how for manufacturing tea. Soon after, the British discovered tea plants growing wild in India. It wasn't until 1905 that the tea plant received its official Latin name, Camellia sinensis. This single plant can be processed to produce green tea, black tea, or something in between.
The credit goes to the Duchess of Bedford – one of Queen Victoria's Ladies in Waiting – who came up with the idea of a late afternoon meal of tea, thin sandwiches, and small cakes to overcome the "sinking feeling" she felt. The notion caught on, with Queen Victoria's enthusiastic support. The British actually invented two kinds of afternoon teas:
These labels can be a source of confusion to Americans. The "high" in high tea does not imply that fancy, high class, or expensive foods are served (or that high tea is enjoyed by well-to-do Britons). It actually refers to afternoon tea served on a “dining table” (a high table) as opposed to afternoon tea served on a "tea table" (a low table). High tea is a fairly substantial meal – equivalent to supper – served in working class homes. It is generally served at 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., and features a hot dish, hefty sandwiches, scones, heavy cakes, biscuits and of course, plenty of tea. By contrast, afternoon tea is traditionally served around 4:00 p.m. This is a lighter meal – a satisfying "snack" between lunch and dinner – that will include scones, thin sandwiches (often with bread crusts trimmed away), biscuits, and assorted cakes.
At first glance, the selection of different teas on sale in a gourmet teashop or at one of the large internet tea dealers looks overwhelming. There seem to be hundreds of different teas on the market. In fact, as Flick Adams explains in Dead as a Scone, "All true teas come from a single plant. Its Latin name is Camellia sinensis. The tea plant is a tropical evergreen, with glossy dark-green leaves. There are three major botanical varieties, and lots of minor variations, of Camellia sinensis found in different parts of the world. Teas, of course, will also taste different depending on soil, climate, the amount of sunlight – all the usual growing factors."
Simply put, the taste of a cup of tea, its "brightness," aroma, strength, and colour will vary depending on its variety, the location it is grown, the time of year it is picked and processed, the specific farming techniques used to grow the crop, how the leaves are harvested, and how the leaves are turned into finished tea. That's why Camellia sinensisgrown in Darjeeling tastes noticeably different than Camellia sinensis grown in Sri Lanka.
Processing plays a critical role in producing different kinds of tea. As Flick explains, "Tea is manufactured in a simple five-step process: First, the topmost leaves and buds on the tea plant are picked by hand. Second, the leaves are left to wither for up to 24 hours. Third, the withered leaves are squeezed between metal rollers to blend the naturally occurring chemicals inside. Fourth, the rolled leaves are allowed to oxidise in the open air for several hours. Finally, the oxidised leaves are heated to stop further oxidation and remove any remaining moisture. Voila! Tea the way it's been made for thousands of years."
This approach to manufacturing tea – called the orthodox process – is often modified with the help of a "CTC" (crush-tear-curl) machine that replaces the rolling step. The tea leaves are literally crushed, torn, and curled into small leaf granules that brew into stronger flavoured and coloured tea. CTC processing reduces cost and has traditionally been used to manufacture lower quality teas, leaving the orthodox process for higher quality loose teas. However, many tea drinkers prefer faster-brewing, stronger-tasting CTC teas. Consequently, many fine teas are now CTC processed. How the fourth step, oxidation, is performed determines whether black tea, green tea, or something in-between is produced.
About three-quarters of tea leaves harvested around the world are made into black tea. Most of the remaining leaf becomes green tea. Only two or three percent are processed to make Oolong and Pouchong tea.
Lapsang Souchong is smoke-flavoured tea. The leaves are withered over pine fires, oxidised until they are almost completely black, then over burning pine. The pine smoke creates a distinctive smoky aroma and flavour that remains when the leaves are brewed.
The most unusual tea-manufacturing process produces Pu'erh tea. Green tea leaves are left slightly moist and stacked in a pile so that they can undergo the same kind of bacterial reaction that occurs in a compost heap. Finally the "fermented" tea leaves are aged – sometimes for more than fifty years. The result is an "earthy" mould-like flavour that is definitely an acquired taste.
After the processed tea is dry, it is sorted into different "grades" by passing the dried tea over a series of vibrating screens of different mesh sizes. Note that the grade is a measure of size, not quality. The four major grades of processed tea, in descending order of "particle" size, are leaf, broken leaf (often shortened to broken), fannings, and dust. The smaller particle sizes brew more quickly than leaf teas and tend to produce stronger brews – because they have more exposed surface area than leaf and broken grades. Most high-quality loose tea is graded leaf or broken leaf. Teabags typically contain fannings and dust.
Some black and green teas are further processed after drying to add flavourings derived from fruit, spice, or flowers. For example, adding oil of bergamot (an inedible citrus fruit) to black tea creates Earl Gray tea. Flower flavoured teas like Jasmine and Rose teas are typically flavoured during the oxidation step to create a deeper flavour.
What about peppermint "tea," chamomile "tea," and the other beverages made from herbs and flowers? Flick Adams will have the last word: "It drives me bonkers when herbal infusions are called 'tea.' I wish we followed the French and called them tisanes," she sighed. "I know it's a losing battle."
The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is a tropical evergreen, with glossy dark-green leaves. It grows best in tropical and sub-tropical regions that have hot, steamy weather, slightly acidic soils, and good soil drainage. Tea is grown and processed in Asia, Africa, and Australia, but the finest teas currently come from five Asian countries: India, China, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Japan, and Formosa. China, the birthplace of tea drinking, has produced tea more than a millennium longer than the other tea growing countries. Although China makes only about ten percent of the tea sold throughout the world (down from almost half before World War II), it produces the greatest number of unusual teas, including an enormous assortment of green tea (roughly 60 percent of Chinese teas are green teas).
India, which produces about a third of the world's tea, is currently the market leader. Only about half of the total is exported each year; India's enormous tea-drinking population consumes the rest. Most Indian teas are black. Interestingly, some tea historians hold that the Indians didn't drink tea until Britain colonised India and introduced wide-scale tea cultivation.
Sri Lanka (often still called Ceylon in tea catalogues) was noted for coffee production until the wholesale destruction of its coffee crop by "coffee rust" disease forced plantation owners to switch to tea cultivation. By 1875 all the coffee was gone. Since then, the country has become the third leading tea producer in the world. One of the people responsible for the shift to tea was Thomas Lipton, who invested in Ceylon to establish a direct source of tea he could sell in his shops in England. Like India, most Ceylon teas are black.
Japan, a nation of avid tea drinkers, produces a large crop of green tea that mostly stays at home. A variety of high quality packaged Japanese teas are available, including sencha (ordinary packaged green tea), sen-cha (a steamed green tea), matcha or matsu-cha (a powered green tea used in tea ceremonies), and gyokuro (a sen-cha style tea made from leaves grown under shade).
Taiwan also consumes most of its tea locally, but the island nation does export a variety of high quality green teas and partially oxidised teas, including Oolong, Jade Oolong, and Pouchong, a nearly green tea. Many are noted for the fruity/floral/nutty flavours, and a few are among the most expensive teas available.