Out of the many things Sri Lanka has to offer to its visitors, Ceylon tea is one of the most prestigious and proud resources that the country boasts about. So, in this CeylonPulse episode, we will be unveiling the amazing Ceylon tea experience you can have during your visit here.
Ceylon tea, mainly consisting of black tea, is known to be the world’s finest form of tea. They are primarily grown in the central highlands and lower elevations of Sri Lanka. When you visit the country, you’ll be able to see and visit the glorious tea plantations and pay a visit to the tea factories and tea museums to taste and learn the real procedure of Ceylon tea making.
Let’s take you on a sweet escapade along the beautiful tea gardens of Sri Lanka and show you the bliss of Ceylon tea.
Why is Ceylon Tea So Important to Sri Lanka?
Passing down as the proud legacy of Sri Lanka for decades, Ceylon tea has been playing a vital role in the country going synonymous with its heritage, and culture and as one of the main agricultural crops. Many people around the world are still recognizing Sri Lanka as the country that gives “Ceylon” tea to the world.
In fact, Ceylon tea is famed around the globe for its outstanding quality, cleanliness, exceptional flavor, aroma, and variety of tea. Introduced to the country by British planters in 1867, Ceylon Tea has developed to be the top agricultural export in Sri Lanka.
It provides direct and indirect employment to nearly 1 million people while around four percent of the country’s land area has been utilized in tea plantations that cover nearly 203000 hectares. Therefore, the tea industry in the country plays as one of the major sources of foreign exchange, contributing critically to the country’s economy.
It also helps to enrich the lives of the less-fortunate community in the country who live in the estates, allowing them to make daily wages and sustain their lives. Ceylon tea is usually handpicked which calls for a lot of labor-intensive work.
It is usually done by women and an average tea estate requires about 100-120 tea pluckers daily who will cover up to 20kg of tea leaves. So, everything collectively makes tea one of the most important resources that Sri Lanka possesses and you’ll be able to see everything in your own eyes once you visit a tea plantation in the country.
A Brief History of Ceylon Tea
While the coffee planting in the country was gone down in the early 1800s, a British planter named James Taylor had been testing with a new plant in Loolecondera. The plant was tea and already in 1866, he had dried up the first leaves on his bungalow, trying to simulate the procedure used by tea planters in Assam, India.
By this time, Taylor had twenty acres of Loolecondera cultivated in tea and had shipped his first passable load of 23lb to England. Soon, planters from all over the hill country were coming down to Loolecondera to learn how to grow and manufacture tea. And Ceylon and its plantation industry were finally saved.
However, James Taylor was the first Ceylon grower to succeed with tea. Later, Maurice Worms, a member of the Rothschild family, planted some China seedlings on Rothschild estates in Ramboda and Pusselawa. He even prepared tea from the crop. The China-fashioned tea was at £5 a pound, which was much too much to be competitive. However, it was left to Taylor, a generation later, to lead the way.
What Kind of Tea Experience Can You Get in Sri Lanka?
There’s actually nowhere like Sri Lanka if you need to get the authentic Ceylon tea experience! In fact, you’ll get the opportunity to witness the start-to-end process of making Ceylon tea if you visit tea plantations and tea factories in the country.
When you’re traveling to the hillside, this is an experience that you should never miss out on. Most travelers who visit Sri Lanka through a travel agency get the chance to visit tea plantations and tea factories through a guided tour.
But if you are not traveling through a travel agency, still you have the ability to visit these places to have the true Ceylon tea experience. You can also visit the plantations and factories in low-grown and mid-grown areas but we recommend you to visit the ones you’ll get in high-grown areas to have the best tea adventure.
Visit the Tea Plantations and Tea Factories
En route to Nuwara Eliya, you will find many tea gardens located in beautiful elevations in the area. Once you stop for a while on the way, you’ll catch a glimpse of the most breathtaking views of the tea plantations that run to infinity.
The verdant, luscious vegetation will feast your eyes with its soothing greenery as you walk through the tea bushes to observe them closely. Most large tea plantations have their own tea factories while most of them are open to guests. We will list down some of our recommendations so that you can visit either one of them to see how Ceylon tea is made.
In addition to watching the factory work, you will also have the prospect of stepping into the tea fields and trying out tea plucking. This is one of the most fun and exciting things to do in Sri Lanka as you wear the tea plucking basket at your back and pluck the beautiful tea leaves with your own hands like a real tea plucker!
Inside the Tea Factories…
You will need to obtain a ticket to visit most factories since they are about to show you a valuable procedure. Most factory managements have an experienced staff who will guide and explain to you the step-by-step process that’s going on inside. We must say that these tours are going to be very inspirational and educational for your children as they will be learning everything about Ceylon Tea.
Most factories will offer free tea where you will get the chance to taste various types of teas from regular black tea to green tea, English breakfast, flavored tea, silver tips, etc. Here, you will get a clear idea of how Ceylon tea ranges in strength, color, and flavor. Here’s the list of factories and plantations that you must visit during your trip to the hill country, mid-country, or low country of Sri Lanka:
- Halpewatte Tea Factory
- Pedro Estate
- Oak Ray Tea Factory and Museum
- Damro Labookellie Tea Estate
- Dambatenne Tea Factory
- Blue Field Tea Factory
- Geragama Tea factory
- Handunugoda Tea Factory
Most of these tea factories also include viewpoints, cafeterias, and tea shops. Once you obtain a ticket and get inside, you can spend some quality time with your family, enjoying the mesmerizing vistas of the tea plantations. You can purchase authentic Ceylon tea from tea shops in many varieties to take back home with you.
Tea plantations and tea factories are not the only things you can enjoy in Nuwara Eliya. Click on this link and read this article if you’re interested in learning all about this beautiful hill city and discovering more things to do there!
Other Tea Centers and Museums in Sri Lanka
Apart from the typical tea estates and factories, you’ll find in Sri Lanka, the country is also ample in tea centers and a precious tea museum. The Ceylon Tea Museum is located in Hanthana, Kandy which is about 2 miles away from the main city of Kandy.
The museum has four floors: the ground floor and the second-floor display very old items of machinery. The first floor includes a library and an auditorium with installations for audio-visual presentations. The third floor is assigned to tea sales outlets, where a variety of Sri Lanka’s finest tea is available.
The entire top floor is a tea cafe and a breathtaking view of the Kandy town surrounded by the range of hills can be seen through a telescope ascended on the fourth floor. The grounds encompassing the Tea Museum are landscaped with different assortments of teas.
In addition to the tea museum, there are also fancy tea centers you can visit in different places in the country. Leading tea brands in Sri Lanka such as Dilmah and Mlesna have their tea lounges and tea centers in the following places:
- Mlesna Tea Castle- Colombo Road, Kiribathkumbura, Kandy
- T-lounge by Dilmah – Arcade Independence Square, Chatham Street, Colombo
- Mlesna Tea Castle- St Clair, Nuwara Eliya
- T-lounge by Dilmah- Horton Place, Colombo
- T-lounge & Bar by Dilmah- One Galle Face Mall, Colombo
Where Can You Buy Ceylon Tea in Sri Lanka?
Interestingly, you can buy Ceylon tea from any supermarket and normal retail shops in Sri Lanka. Since it is the most famous and common beverage in Sri Lanka, almost every shop sells a variety of teas.
However, if you need to buy premium-quality tea in Sri Lanka, you can visit the shopping malls, and even some lifestyle stores in the country often have boutiques of luxury tea in Sri Lanka. Do not forget to check out these brands and take the time to do some online shopping from their websites as well. If you need to try out exclusive tea with catchy packaging you can try brands like:
- Basilur Tea- https://www.basilurtea.com/
- Dilmah Tea- https://www.dilmahtea.com/
- Zesta Tea- https://www.zestaceylontea.com/
- Mlesna Tea- http://www.mlesnateas.com/
- George Steuart Teas- https://gsteas.lk/
These teas can be found in an extensive variety ranging from basic black tea and green tea to complex infusions such as fruity and herbal concoctions. They usually come as loose tea, tea leaves, tea capsules, and tea bags to choose upon your preference.
You can also find tea shops and tea centers under these brands at the Bandaranaike International Airport, while most luxury hotels in Sri Lanka will also serve them.
Tea Growing Regions in Sri Lanka and Their Quality
The tea-growing regions of Sri Lanka are huddled mostly among the mountains of the country’s central highlands and its southern plateaus. Accordingly, Sri Lanka has 7 regions that grow tea and they are categorized into three elevations: high-grown, mid-grown, and low-grown. The seven tea-growing regions are as follows:
Nuwara Eliya (High-grown)
Nuwara Eliya, the far-famed Sri Lanka’s tea-growing district, is the most mountainous and has the highest average elevation. Blended at low temperatures, this area produces teas that have an exquisite flavor.
The infusion in the brew consists of a lighter color out of all the types of Ceylon Tea, with a golden hue and a mildly fragrant flavor. The Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP) and whole-leaf Orange Pekoe (OP) are the most sought-after tea grades from this region.
Between Horton Plains and Nuwara Eliya lies the district of Dimbula, whose teas are characterized as “high grown” as all estates transcend an altitude of 4000 feet. The complex geography of the region creates a variety of microclimates, which produce disparities in the flavor of the teas. The Dimbula character of the teas usually gives a fine golden-orange color to the cup, which is refreshingly mild.
Uva (High-grown and Mid-grown)
The remote Uva district usually gets the winds of both southwest and northeast monsoons, considered to support the tea produced here with a unique, detailed character that is exotically aromatic and flavorful.
The delicate, smooth taste of Uva tea, once devoured, is easily recognized.
Uda Pussellawa (High-grown)
The Uda Pussellawa district is located close to Nuwara Eliya, so its tea is usually compared to that of its neighbor. But it is darker in hue, with a pinkish hint, of greater potency, and uniquely zesty.
Colder temperatures at the end of the year apparently add a touch of rose to the flavor of tea known for its subtle character and medium body. However, heavy rainfall tends to make tea that is even stronger-flavored and darker when brewed.
In the Kandy district, where the tea industry began in 1867, the production is defined as “mid-grown” as cultivation does not surpass 4200 feet. These teas vary in flavor depending on the altitude and whether the cultivation is sheltered from monsoon winds. All are specifically flavored, while the Kandy teas produce a colorful infusion with a coppery tone and are assertive and intensely full-bodied.
The teas of the Ruhuna district are characterized as “low-grown” as they are grown at an altitude not exceeding 1500 feet incorporating extensive sub-regions from coastal plains to the Southern border of the Sinharaja Rain Forest. The soil, mixed with the low elevation of the plantations, results in the tea bush growing rapidly, delivering a long, attractive leaf. Full-flavored black tea is a distinctive Ruhuna specialty. The tea factories in Ruhuna produce a large variety of leaf styles and sizes, including the expensive “tips”.
Sabaragamuwa is Sri Lanka’s largest district, the teas of which are low-grown as its plantations vary in elevation from sea level to 2000 feet. Sabaragamuwa nestled between Sinharaja in the south and Adam’s Peak wilderness in the north, makes a fast-growing bush with a long leaf. The color, too, is similar to that of Ruhuna tea, bright yellow-brown with a reddish hint. The fragrance, however, is specifically different from the Ruhuna products, with a touch of sweet caramel with less strength.
Sip On A Warm Cup Of Ceylon Tea As You Enjoy The Beauty of Sri Lanka!
Ceylon tea and Sri Lanka are always synonymous as tea is the pillar of Sri Lankan heritage that showcases its proud legacy. Thus, it is crucial for you to get the best possible Ceylon tea experience while you stay in the country as your trip will be incomplete without it. So, we hope this article was informative enough for you to get a clear idea about how to get the authentic Ceylon tea experience in the best way while collecting a ton of memories to take home.
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