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How is Ceylon tea cultivated?

Sri Lanka, historically known as Ceylon is well-known for tea production. Tea production is so prevalent in Sri Lanka that it currently accounts 2 per cent of total GDP with about 4 per cent of total land being used in tea plantations.

Ceylon (Sri Lanka) is well suited for the plantation of tea because the humidity, cool temperatures and rainfall there provide the perfect climate for the production of high-quality tea. 

The origin of tea plantation in Ceylon goes back to 1867. James Taylor, a British planter who arrived in 1852 introduced the tea industry in Sri Lanka. He started a tea plantation in the Loolecondera estate in Kandy in 1867 at the age of 17. Soon after that, the plantations surrounding Loolkandura, including Hope, Rookwood and Mooloya to the east and Le Vallon and Stellenberg to the south, began switching over to tea and were among the first tea estates to be established on the island.

What is Ceylon tea?

Now, ‘Ceylon tea’ is used to refer to black tea that originates from Sri Lanka. Although Sri Lanka has also started producing green tea and other tea types, most Ceylon teas are black teas.

Black Ceylon tea, which is the most common form has a mild flavour that is reminiscent of citrus fruits. Green Ceylon tea has a more pungent, nutty flavour than black Ceylon tea. It also has the highest level of antioxidants, since these tea leaves are unfermented.

White Ceylon tea is the most expensive and rarest form of tea. It is prepared, harvested and processed by hand. After that, it is allowed to dry in the sun, giving it a sweeter, more pleasant flavour than the other two varieties.

Over a period of time, Ceylon tea has become quite popular owing to the host of impressive benefits of Ceylon tea. It has the ability to aid in weight loss, protect against chronic illness, boost heart health, increase energy levels, strengthen the immune system, improve the appearance of the skin, moderate diabetic symptoms and prevent kidney stones.

Ceylon teacup brew
Ceylon teacup brew

How is Ceylon Tea cultivated?

Tea is cultivated in Sri Lanka using the ‘contour planting’ method. In the ‘contour planting’ method, the tea bushes are planted in lines along the contours of the land, usually on slopes. Over one million people from Sri Lanka are employed in the process of tea cultivation since the cultivation process demands excessive labour. The process requires the skilful plucking of two leaves and a bud, which has the flavour and aroma.

The plucking process is usually carried out by women. Sri Lanka is one of the few countries where each tea leaf is picked by hand rather than plucking through machines. If machines are used, the quality of tea degrades because then all the leaves are not whole. The women who pick leaves are so efficient that they are able to pluck rapidly and set a daily target of around 15 to 20 kg.

Ceylon Tea plucking
Ceylon tea plucking

There is a total of 11 tea growing regions in the country and the most famous ones are Uva, Nuwara Eliya, and Dimbulla. Other tea-growing regions in Sri Lanka include Badulla, Galle, Haputalle, Kandy, Maturata, Ratnapura, Ruhuna, and Uda Pussellawa.

Which are the main tea growing regions for Ceylon tea?

Uva is the most famous tea growing region of Sri Lanka. It produces black tea that has a distinctly sweet flavour and exotic aroma. This form of tea can be made with milk. Uva region also has some production of white tea. 

Nuwara Eliya is known as the highest elevation tea-producing area in Sri Lanka. It is located in the centre of the island, west of Uva and north of Dambulla. The terroirs of Nuwara Eliya produce tea with a delicate, floral fragrance and light, but a brisk flavour.

Dambulla is a tea-growing region in central Sri Lanka. It is the southernmost of the three well-known regions. As a region of mountain slopes, the terroir ranges greatly with the elevation. Some of the teas produced here are full-bodied, while others are delicate but most are mellow in flavour.

How is Ceylon tea processed?

Tea plantations in Sri Lanka are very specific about the quality and value of processed tea. After plucking, the tea is brought to a shaded area where it is weighed and then taken to a factory for further processing. The factories are usually located close to the plantation to save on the transport costs. The tea leaves are then taken to top floors of the factory to lay them on large troughs for the process of withering. This process removes the extra moisture from the leaves. Post the withering process, the leaves are rolled, twisted and parted.

The leaves are then rolled through either of the techniques. After the rolling, they are spread out again to begin the process of fermenting through the exposure of heat. The fermentation process varies based on temperature and humidity. Hence, regulating the temperature, humidity, and duration of fermentation is an important process. This will greatly determine the final flavour. Then the oxidation step occurs which changes the colour from green to brown.

This leads to the final step where heat is applied through the firing chamber to disable further actions from taking place. The firing/roasting helps in retaining the flavour developed.

Then, the important step of grading takes place through sorting tea based on the texture and size of leaves. The important thing to note here is that no artificial flavours are added in the production and hence the tea produced here is 100 per cent genuine product. Multiple checks place take place to ensure that the tea meets the expected standards.

It is then shipped out to many places in the world.

Pure Ceylon tea produced in Sri Lanka carries the Lion Logo on its packages. This Lion Logo signifies the purity and originality of Ceylon tea. The governing body of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Tea Board closely monitors the use of lion logo. The tea board follows strict inspection procedures. The tea that passes that is also allowed to use the slogan ‘Pure Ceylon Tea — Packed in Sri Lanka’. The name and logo are considered a sign of quality all over the world.

Ceylon Tea Lion Logo
Ceylon tea Lion Logo

What does Ceylon tea taste like?

There are a lot of variations in the flavours of Ceylon tea based on the location and elevation of the plantation. Even though Sri Lanka is a small island, it has some variations in altitudes.

Along with the elevation, the climate, sunlight, rainfall and plant varieties also result in a difference in taste. Sri Lanka is famous for the number of different forms of tea that can be cultivated from a single region.

A traditional cup of Ceylon tea, however, tastes full, bold and brisk and has a significant quantity of tannins. It also has a bit of a citrus taste. The slight tangy taste sets it apart from the rest of the tea in the market.

What are the benefits of Ceylon tea?

Benefits of Ceylon tea
Benefits of Ceylon tea

The Ceylon tea is well known for its high polyphenolic content. It is owing to these polyphenolic content that Ceylon tea has a huge range of benefits. There are other useful compounds in Ceylon tea like flavonoids and anti-oxidants. This makes it useful for a wide variety of ailments.

1. Helps in weight loss

Ceylon tea has the ability to stimulate the metabolism which helps in losing weight. When the metabolism is speeded up, the body burns fat faster. Hence, by having Ceylon tea is the morning, you can kick start your body system in a manner that your calorie-burning efforts have better results.

2. Boosts immune system

A strong immune system is a must for a healthy body and Ceylon tea helps in accomplishing that. Ceylon tea strengthens the immune system by reducing the response time of the body in fighting with disease-causing pathogens. Also, the antioxidants in tea interact with free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body. This allows the immune system to focus on fighting infections.

3. Protects the heart

Potassium present in Ceylon tea acts as a vasodilator and is crucial to heart health. It regulates the blood pressure by relaxing the tension in blood vessels and arteries. Regulated blood pressure is important to ensure that there is no strain on the heart. Ceylon tea can, therefore, help in promoting long-term heart of the cardiovascular system.

4. Increases the energy

Caffeine, an important component of Ceylon tea helps in providing an energy boost and enhance cognitive abilities. However, pregnant women and people with anxiety problems should prevent caffeine.

5. Promotes skin health

Collagen present in the skin helps in promoting good skin health by ensuring skin elasticity. Collagen, therefore, helps in reducing wrinkles and keeps the radiant. Ceylon tea reduces the collagen loss in the skin by reducing oxidative stress in the surrounding cells. By reducing the loss of collagen, premature ageing can be prevented. Also, the appearance of blemishes and other skin diseases can be prevented.

6. Eliminates kidney stones

The caffeine content and kidney stones are also known to reduce the risk of developing kidney stones. 

7. Regulates diabetes

Drinking Ceylon tea regularly reduces blood sugar levels. The regulation of blood sugar levels is extremely crucial for diabetic people. Through this regulation of glucose and insulin levels, Ceylon tea can prevent spikes and drops that are detrimental to the health of people with diabetes.

8. Prevents chronic illness

The range of anti-oxidants present is Ceylon tea are extremely helpful in preventing the occurrence of a chronic illness. The antioxidants theaflavins and thearubigins are helpful in counteracting the spread of cancer and preventing cellular mutation. It also helps in boosting the responsiveness of the immune system.

Where can I get Ceylon tea?

Like most natural products, tea tastes best when fresh. However, most teas on the market are far from it, taking nearly a year to reach your cup as they pass through a supply-chain of multiple middlemen and storage houses. As your tea makes this long journey from the plantation to your home, it gradually goes flat losing its natural flavour and aroma. As such some common tea brands chemically enhance their teas with natural and artificial flavouring or GMO’s.

Sadly most of the today’s leading tea brands (some might be in your kitchen cupboard) include harmful chemical additives to boost flavour and shelf life of their teas.

So, if you intend to consume the freshest and purest form of Ceylon tea, you can select from teakruthi’s range of Ceylon tea.

The unique thing about Teakruthi’s Ceylon tea is that it delivers teas directly from the Plantation to your doorstep within three months. Due to the short lead-time and direct sourcing model, our teas taste delicious with no artificial additives.

This is done by eliminating the middlemen and sourcing directly from some of Sri Lanka’s finest estate factories. Their just-in-time demand algorithms allow them to order tea supply only as needed, reducing storage stock and wastage. Sri Lanka is the only source market that grows tea all year round, eliminating the need for us to stock supply to service off-season orders.

Teakruthi serves only the finest of pure Ceylon tea hand plucked and sourced from select plantations in Sri Lanka’s high, mid and low-grown regions. Their complex flavours and aromas are delicately balanced by our experienced Tea Sommeliers to create a range of uniquely distinctive flavours. 

We process our teas in a climate-controlled facility and ship them to you vacuum packed in an aluminium pouch, protecting it from sunlight. Your tea thus arrives fresh with its true flavour and aromas intact.

About the author

Shreya Dalela

Shreya Dalela

Contributing author

Shreya loves to research and write about tea and claims Mythical Green Pure Ceylon Green Tea to be her favorite go-to beverage. She swears that her daily cup of green tea gives her a dose of morning inspiration as she sits down to type 1000s of words every day. To unwind at the end of the day, she reaches for a cup of soothing Ananda Veda Green Tea infusion. You can often find her saying 'Everything is better with a cup of tea' :)

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