A Brief History of Ceylon Tea

Ceylon tea is a popular beverage and a household brand all over the world. This delicious variety of tea that is grown in the central highlands of Sri Lanka has a very colourful history as well.

The very first tea plant was brought to the island back in the year 1824. This was planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya. This was the very first non-commercial tea crop that was grown on the island.

In the year 1867, a Scotsman by the name of James Taylor began the task of commercially cultivating tea in Sri Lanka. The plot of land that was chosen for the purpose was Loolecondera Estate in Kandy. This humble tea estate, which only spanned across 19 acres, was rapidly developed by James Taylor. By the year 1872, a factory was also in operation on site. The simple factory was built on the veranda of James Taylor’s bungalow. The tea leaves were rolled by hand here and clay stoves and charcoal fires were used to do the firing. The airing of the leaves was done on simple wire trays. The hard work of the workers paid off and in the same year, the very first sale of Loolecondera tea was made. The following year 23 pounds of tea from this estate were shipped to London.

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Two centuries later, a majority of the coffee planters in the island switched to tea plantation as well. Soon a number of the mountain slopes of the Hill Country were carpeted in emerald sheen. Tea industry was slowly taking root in the island and Ceylon tea was rapidly garnering the attention of the world. Close to 400,000 acres in the country were dedicated to the tea cultivation by the year 1899. The first Sirocco tea dryer was brought to the island in 1877 and the first tea rolling machine was imported in 1880.

In the year 1894, the Ceylon Tea Traders Association was formed. To this day, a large portion of tea produced in the country is vended through this professional body. The Colombo Brokers Association which was established in 1896 further enhanced the value of the industry. In the year 1925, the Tea Research Institute was established in the country and in 1932, Tea Propaganda Board was formed. The State Plantations Corporation which was founded in 1958 helped to enhance the standards of the tea industry in the island.

Today, Sri Lanka is the fourth largest producer of tea and Ceylon tea is a dearly loved beverage that has found its way to millions of households all across the globe.