The alchemy of land, sun and rain in the Paradise Island of Ceylon, as it was known 40 years ago, presents the ideal climatic conditions for cultivation of tea. Ceylon now known as Sri Lanka brings a new dimension to tea by producing variations in taste, quality, character and appearance, largely based on terroir of the region. Ceylon tea with its distinct taste and character has now became every consumer’s favourite cuppa.
History of Ceylon Tea
Tea originated in China, as legend has it, 5,000 years ago with Chinese emperor Shen Nung claiming the health benefits of tea in 2737 BC. However it was Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) that made tea famous in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Scotsman James Taylor is attributed to planting the first tea estate in Sri Lanka. It was in 1867 that Taylor planted 20 acres of tea on the Loolecondera estate (of which he was superintendent). It was here he perfected the technique of fine plucking – `two leaves and a bud.’
Ceylon tea became the front-runner of the industry and was much loved for its unmatched quality and variety. The alchemy of land, sun and rain in the Paradise Island of Ceylon, as it was known then, presented the ideal climatic conditions for cultivation of tea. Ceylon added a new dimension to tea by producing variations in taste, quality, character and appearance, largely based on terroir of the region. Ceylon tea with
its distinct taste and character became every consumer’s favourite cuppa.
However this changed when the Ceylon Tea industry was taken over by multinationals about 40 years ago. Their criteria for success changed from quality, authenticity and in some cases to freshness, to more commercial and profit oriented factors. They moved away from Ceylon tea to multi origin blends, a mixture of tea from several countries, to offer a cheaper product. Thus they commoditized tea and this led to a decline in demand for Ceylon tea – which was neither a commodity or cheap. When Merrill J. Fernando embarked on his journey in tea, almost 58 years ago, he sought to bring quality tea,Ceylon tea, back to consumers. Choosing to remain faithful to Ceylon Tea, acknowledged the finest tea on earth, Dilmah introduced lovers of fine tea to the pioneering concept of tea ‘picked, perfected and packed’ at origin. Single Origin Tea.
Tea Growing Regions
There are three main tea growing regions in Sri Lanka. These are, Low grown teas which are teas grown on an elevation between sea level to 600m, Mid Grown teas which are from 600m to 1,200m and High grown teas which are grown at an elevation above 1,200m. The taste, flavour and aroma of teas from each region are influenced by the conditions particular to those regions. Low grown teas, which are subjected to long periods of sunshine, dry and somewhat warm and moist conditions, exhibit a burgundy brown liquor and a malt, heavy note with black leaf appearance. Whereas High grown teas grown on an elevation of around 3,000 feet would be dramatically different – depending on the time of year, influenced by the chill winds, dry and cool conditions these teas are likely to be extraordinarily light, with greenish, grassy tones in honey golden liquors.