Posted in Kafevend Blog

Sri Lankan tea

Hello, and welcome back to the Kafevend blog- today we are rounding off the week with some more tea based musings as we head off in search of the island of Sri Lanka, and take a look at the tea grown there.

Sri Lankan tea history

Originally known as Ceylon (a name that still features on tea from the island- you may have been drinking it without realising it!), Sri Lanka lies around thirty miles off the south east coast of India. It has long been a site of colonial shenanigans, with the Portuguese, Dutch and British all jostling for position on it. One of the reasons for this is Sri Lanka's perfect landscape for growing tea and coffee.

Coffee was the first to make it to Sri Lanka in the early 1800s whilst under British rule. The coffee industry did well for a time, but fell prey to the devastating blight known as coffee leaf rust in the 1870s. Coffee leaf rust had played havoc with other coffee producering nations as well such as Brazil- in fact, just about the only place not to be affected was the Philippines. Keen to plug the gap, tea was seized upon as a replacement. The tea industry on Sri Lanka has much to owe to one man- James Taylor.

James Taylor

Born in the remote north east of Scotland in 1835, Taylor emigrated to Sri Lanka at the age of 17. In 1866 he made a visit across the sea to India to learn about growing tea, and on his return established the Loolecondera estate a few miles south of the town of Galaha. This was to serve as an inspiration to other tea estates in Sri Lanka as Taylor made his mark.

Loolecondera's first export to London consisted of just 23 lbs of tea- it didn't stay that way for long though. Setting up a fully functioning tea factory on the estate, Taylor had Loolecondera producing several thousands of tons of tea every year by 1890. In the same year, Taylor received a visit from Thomas Lipton. The two agreed a trade deal, and soon Lipton's tea business was selling Ceylon tea throughout Britain and the USA, boosting the image of Sri Lankan tea.

As it is now

Whilst it can't compete with the sheer scale of the tea industries at work in China or India, the fact that this relatively small island counts itself amongst the top five tea producing countries in the world is impressive. Sri Lanka produces around 300,000 tons of tea each year, and accounts for almost 20% of the total exports for tea on the globe. This tea can be harvested all the year around too, thanks to the islands natural inclinations: an east-west split means that as one side of the island finishes its harvest, the other begins! Be sure to look out for some Ceylon or Sri Lankan tea the next time you go shopping for a quality brew.


Tea from India and Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka's first tea factory

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