A Taste of Ceylon: Exploring Sri Lanka’s Storied Tea Heritage

Sri Lankan Tea

Greetings fellow tea lovers! Today we’ll be steeping ourselves in the long and rich history of Sri Lankan tea. The island nation was once known as Ceylon under British rule, and Ceylon tea remains renowned today for its exquisite flavors and craftsmanship.

Tea cultivation in Sri Lanka began in the 1860s under the British. Ideal growing conditions allowed Ceylon to become a top global tea exporter. The first tea plantations were established in Kandy and Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka’s central highlands. These areas still produce some of the world’s finest teas.

Two main varieties are grown: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis produces a classic black tea, while Camellia sinensis var. assamica yields Assam-style black teas with bold malty notes. Popular estate teas include Uva, Dimbula, Nuwara Eliya, and Assam-style teas from Ratnapura.

Sri Lanka adheres to traditional, artisanal tea-making methods. Plucking is done by hand, and the leaves are rolled and oxidized slowly to cultivate complex flavors. Unlike mass CTC production, these teas are crafted in small batches to allow their terroir to shine.

Ceylon Tea Pickers in a a Field

Tea and Sri Lankan culture blend like perfectly steamed milk and tea. The ritual of serving tea to guests honors Sri Lanka’s renowned hospitality. High tea at colonial hotels in Colombo and Kandy harkens back to past British traditions. Ceylon tea remains a nationwide symbol of pride and prosperity.

Brewing Sri Lankan Tea

Ideal brewing temperature for Sri Lankan tea is 195°F to 200°F, just under boiling. Water that is too hot can scorch the delicate flavors. 3-4 grams of tea per 6 ounce cup is recommended, with a 3-5 minute steep time.

Milk and cane sugar are traditional additives. Lightly crushing the tea leaves before steeping releases even more flavor. High-quality Ceylon teas can be re-steeped multiple times.

From elegant single-estate teas to comforting cups of milk tea, Sri Lanka offers an array of flavors for any tea connoisseur. If you love discovering new teas, I highly recommend adding Ceylons to your tasting list. The craftsmanship of these teas is only rivalled by the beauty of the rolling hills they come from. I hope you’ll join me again next time as we continue our tea adventures!

Major Tea Regions

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Indian tea

Turkish tea

Vietnamese tea

Japanese tea

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