The story of Ceylon Taylor’s tea

James Taylor (March 29, 1835 Kincardineshire, Scotland – May 2, 1892 Kandy, British Ceylon) was a British citizen who introduced tea plantation to British Ceylon. He arrived to British Ceylon in 1852 and settled down in Loolecondera estate in Galaha. Where he worked with Thomas Lipton, a Scottish immigrant, to develop the tea industry in British Ceylon. He continued to live in British Ceylon until his death.

It was as far back as the year 1824 in which the British brought a tea plant from China to Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was known at the time). It was planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya and is considered to have been the first non-commercial tea plant in Sri Lanka.

After nearly two decades in 1867, James Taylor, Scottish by origin, planted 19 acres of tea in the city of Kandy in Ceylon, at the Loolecondra Estate as the first commercial tea plantation. The eventual sale of Loolecondra teas resulted in 1872, in Kandy and the first tea consignment to London in 1873.

These pioneering efforts were done by trial and error and improved over the years via the introduction and improvement of tea processing machines and methods, by different individuals and companies.

The first broking firm John Brothers & Co. was established in 1876 and the first public Colombo auction took place in 1883 under the guidance of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (which was established in 1839). The Colombo Tea Traders’ Association was formed in 1894 and in 1925 the Tea Research Institute was established. These organizations helped boost the production and the export of Ceylon Teas in its early stages.

Tea is grown in several different regions in Sri Lanka. The different climatic and geographical conditions give rise to Specific characteristics to the tea grown in each respective region. Higher the elevation the plantations are located at, the cooler the climate experienced.

TEA GROWING REQUIREMENTS 

  • Acidic soil
  • At least 127cm of rain fall
  • Average temperature of 11° C

Sri Lanka’s finest teas are produced mainly from bushes that grow above 4,000 feet. The bushes grow more slowly in the cooler, mistier climate, and are hard harvest because of the steep angle of the slopes on which they are planted.

The teas produced in each region have their own distinct characteristics of flavor, aroma, and color. Low-grown teas, produced at 1,500 to 1,800 feet, are of good quality and give good color and strength but lack the distinctive flavor and bright fresh taste of the higher-grown teas and are usually used in blending. Mid-grown teas, grown between 1,800 and 3,500 feet, are rich in flavor and give good color. High-grown teas, from heights of between 3,500 and 7,500 feet, are the very best that Sri Lanka produces, giving a beautiful golden liquor and an intense powerful flavor. As well as the wonderful black teas are concerned some estates also produce silver tip white tea that gives a very pale straw-colored liquor and should be drunk without milk. All Sri Lanka’s black teas are best drunk with a little milk.

 DIMBULLA

Dimbulla teas are majorly grown on plantations at an elevation of approx. 5000 – 6000 ft above the sea level. Like Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula is drenched by the monsoon during August and September and produces its best teas during the dry months of January and February. The teas are noted for their body and strength, and a powerful aroma.

Characteristics:

Long wiry beautiful leaves that give an exquisite taste, almost oaky, with body and strength.

Brewing hints:

Brew 1 teaspoon in a scant 1 cup water at 203 F. Infuse for 3-4 minutes.

Drinking recommendations:

Drink with milk as an afternoon tea.

GALLE

Including the regions in the South-Western Coast, these plantations are mostly located at sea level. Specializes in Flowery Orange Pekoes and Orange Pekoes that have well produced, regular-size leaf and give an amber golden liquor with a scented aroma giving a fine, gentle and subtle taste.

Characteristics:

Beautiful leaf that gives smooth, perfumed liquor.

Brewing hints:

Brew 1 teaspoon in a scant 1 cup water at 203 F. Infuse for 3-4 minutes.

Drinking recommendations:

Drink with milk as an afternoon tea.

NUWARA ELLYA

Plantations are located at an elevation of approx. 6000 ft above the sea level. Teas from the highest region on the island are often described as the “champagne” of Ceylon teas. The leaf is gathered all year round, but the finest teas are made from that plucked in January and February. The best teas of the area give a rich, golden, excellent quality liquor that is smooth, bright, and delicately perfumed.

Characteristics:

Bright brisk flavour and wonderful perfume.

Brewing hints:

Brew 1 teaspoon in a scant 1 cup water at 203 F. Infuse for 3-4 minutes.

Drinking recommendations:

Good at any time of the day with a little milk.

RATNAPURA

Ratnapura produces low-grown teas that are mainly used in blends, but also drink well alone with a little milk.

Characteristics:

Long-leafed tea that gives a slightly sweet aroma and a gentle smooth taste.

Brewing hints:

Brew 1 teaspoon in a scant 1 cup water at 203 F. Infuse for 3-4 minutes.

Drink with milk as an afternoon tea.

UVA

Located at an elevation of 2000 – 4000 ft, these plantations are mostly located on the eastern slopes of Sri Lanka. Teas produce here have a distinctive mellow flavor whose reputation stretches world-wide. The best teas are plucked between June and September. The dry wind that blows towards Uva during this period gives the teas their fine taste and aroma.

Characteristics:

Copper-colored infusion with a very smooth, pronounced taste and wonderful aroma.

Brewing hints:

Brew 1 teaspoon in a scant 1 cup water at 203 F. Infuse for 3-4 minutes.

Drinking recommendations:

A breakfast or day-time tea. Drink with milk.

HOW IT’S MANUFACTURED

Everyday around 300,000 estate workers pluck several million-tea leaves by hand. This is the first step in the manufacture of quality Ceylon tea.

Only the bud and the two youngest leaves are plucked, for it is only these leaves that have the flavor and aroma. In other parts of the world machines, do plucking. These machines pluck the bud, the young leaf, a lot  of course leaf and few twigs as well. Coarse leaf and and twigs just add bulk and not flavour to the tea.

The plucked tea leaf is then brought to the muster sheds where they are weighed in, and first quality inspection is made. The leaf is then moved to the factory where they are withered using large blowers.

The next step in the manufacturing process involves, cutting the leaves. This brings out the juices and begins the fermentation process. Fermentation is the critical step. The humidity, temperature and fermentation time has to be well controlled or the flavour is lost.

After fermentation is completed, the leaf is fired, to lock in the flavour, to dry it and to improve the keeping qualities. Absolutely no preservative or artificial flavouring are added in the manufacture of pure Ceylon tea.

The final step is the separation of the product according the color and the particle size. Here strignent quality control is done and anything that does not measure up to the standards is rejected.

A GUIDANCE NOTE ON HOW TO SELECT THE BEST CEYLON TEA, AND HOW TO ENJOY A CUP OF CEYLON TEA

The Island of Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka) is world renowned for its high quality teas. Today, Sri Lanka is the world’s second biggest tea exporter. More than 25% of the value of all Sri Lanka’s exports are accounted for by tea. Tea cultivation is scientifically managed and skillfully produces the world’s finest, fragrant blends. This ensures consistency in the flavour, aroma and colour of Ceylon teas that are marketed.

Tea cultivation was established in Sri Lanka, over a century ago and is now produced year round in the central highlands and southern regions of this beautiful tropical island. Based on the altitude at which it is grown tea is classified as high, medium or low grown teas.

The unique climatic conditions that prevail in the central highlands of Sri Lanka produces the exquisite high grown Nuwara Eliya and Uva blends, which are renowned for their taste and aroma. The medium grown teas provide a bold colour that is in demand by the consumers in North America. Lower grown tea plantations produce the leafy grades of tea from the tip of the unopened tea shoot.

Until recently the tea produced in Sri Lanka was shipped in bulk and repacked in the major tea consuming countries. Our company now has modern machinery and technology for tea bagging and packing to expeditiously meet the needs of wholesale or retail customers and food service companies in any part of the world.

Some of the advantages of packing tea in Sri Lanka are:

  • The freshness of quality Ceylon blends is retained when purchased by the consumer.
  • The authorized government lion symbol of the Sri Lanka Tea Board guarantees that only quality Ceylon tea of     specified blends are contained in the package.
  • The product could be obtained at competitive prices.
  • Lower grown tea plantations produce the leafy grades of tea from the tip of the unopened tea shoot.

The Grading of Ceylon Tea

The grade names which follow are an indication of size and/or appearance of Ceylon Teas (Sri Lanka, but the name Ceylon still applies to the tea of that island nation) and NOT of its quality. The Tea Research Institute of Ceylon points out that “there is a lack of uniformity in the market grades today which makes it difficult to describe them with any accuracy.” Briefly, however, Ceylon teas are divided into two groups: (1) the Leaf grades such as were originally made by the Ceylon pioneers, and (2) the smaller Broken grades which are in style today.

Leaf grades are usually divided in to:

  • Orange Pekoe (O.P)
  • Pekoe (Pek.)
  • Souchong (Sou.)

Broken grades are divided into:

  • Broken Orange Pekoe (B.O.P.)
  • Broken Pekoe (B.P.)
  • Broken Pekoe Souchong (B.P.S.)
  • Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings (B.O.P.F.)
  • Dust (D.)

The grades may be described as follows:

  • O.P. — Long, thin, wiry leaves which sometimes contain tip. The liquors are light or pale in color.
  • Pek. — The leaves of this grade are shorter and not so wiry as O.P., but the liquors generally have more color.
  • Sou. — A bold and round leaf, with pale liquors.
  • B.O.P. — This grade is one of the most sought after. It is much smaller than any of the leaf grades and contains tip. The liquors have good color and strength.
  • B.P. — Slightly larger than B.O.P., with rather less color in the cup; useful primarily as a filler in a blend.
  • B.P.S — A little larger than B.P. and in consequence lighter in the cup, but also used as filler in a blend.
  • B.O.P.F. — This grade also is much sought after, especially in the U.K., and fetches high prices. It is much smaller than B.O.P. and its main virtues are quick brewing, with good color in the cup.

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