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QTrade Teas & Herbs provides specialty teas, herbs, spices, custom blending, product development, and private label services to businesses all over the world. We are the largest importer of organic teas in North America, with an expanding selection of flowers, fruits, and berries. (949) 766-0070 www.qtradeteas.com

The Origins of Ceylon Tea


Ceylon tea traces its roots back to British colonial times, even the term “Ceylon” hearkens back to the British name for Sri Lanka. Tea was first introduced as a replacement crop for coffee, which was wiped out by blight in the mid 1800s. James Taylor is the man widely credited with developing the tea industry in the central mountains of Sri Lanka, bringing the first seeds from Assam and experimenting with the processing and manufacturing process until he developed a cost and labor effective means of plucking and bringing teas to market. Another man who was influential in the early development of Ceylon tea was Sir Thomas Lipton, who originally stopped by Sri Lanka while on his way to Australia. Lipton figured out that by removing middlemen and purchasing straight from origin he was able to cut considerable costs and make tea available to working class people. His name has been synonymous with tea ever since.

Uniqueness of Ceylon Teas

Many of the unique traits of Ceylon teas are the result of geography and topography. Sri Lanka is geographically fortunate because of its proximity to the equator, which allows for plucking to take place throughout the year. The mountainous center of the country also provides for two different monsoons and plucking cycles. While one side of the island is experiencing its dry season they other has monsoons and vice versa. The mountains provide other benefits to tea growth as well. Sri Lanka has three distinct growing regions separated by elevation: Low Grown estates >2000 ft,  Mid Grown estates 2000- 4000 ft, and High Grown estates 4000+ ft. The lower elevation teas tend to be darker in color with a fuller body and bolder flavor, benefiting from the tropical atmosphere and higher thearubigin content. Teas that are grown in higher elevations have lighter color and more complex flavor with higher theaflavin content. This is because high elevation teas are forced to struggle against the cooler air in the mountains, causing the plant to grow slowly and pour more nutrients into the leaves. Unlike many other tea-producing countries, Ceylon teas are plucked by hand. Though more time consuming and labor-intensive, an expert plucker is able to select only the finest quality leaves and thus provide for a better quality cup.

Varieties of Tea

Ceylon tea is almost universally synonymous with black tea. Often used in blends for English breakfast or Earl Grey, low grown Ceylon black teas are often hardy, strong and bold, especially well-suited for milk or blending. For this reason, most of Ceylon’s exports find their way to Russia and the Middle East where this style of tea is appreciated. There are however, other types of tea production that have come to the fore in Sri Lanka in recent years.  Green and white tea production also takes place there. Ceylon silver tips have won several of the North American Tea Championships over the last few years. Ceylon teas are synonymous with quality among tea drinkers the world over.

With geographic distinction and artisan plucking and manufacturing, Ceylon teas are  expected to continue to grow in popularity for many years to come. To learn more about QTrade’s unique selection of high quality Ceylon Teas please contact us. Like this post? Have an experience with Ceylon that you want to share? Leave a comment below!

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2 Comments on “The Origins of Ceylon Tea”

  1. t-sips October 19, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Great post!

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