Sri Lanka is a mesmerizing tropical island in the southern part of Asia and is a heavenly paradise in the Indian Ocean. Out of the many industries, Sri Lanka is one of the best destinations to visit on your holiday. Sri Lanka’s tourism is one of the biggest industries in the country, and people from all around the world come to see the mesmerizing beauty of this island. To add to that, Sri Lanka is also best with the finest tea, which the whole world enjoys. Tea is one of the most-consumed beverages in the whole world and is also one of the oldest beverages of all time. Ceylon tea is known for its flavors, premium quality, and availability.
People of all ages consume tea at different strengths and in different flavors. More than 3 billion cups of tea are being consumed every day worldwide. Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, being one of the major players in the tea industry, produces the finest and freshest tea in the world. Ceylon Tea has gained its popularity and name for producing tea with different flavors, strengths, tastes, textures, character, and quality. Sri Lanka focuses on premium tea, which is not constrained only to a teabag.
What is a Ceylon tea?
A Ceylon Tea is a cup of tea made of Sri Lankan tea leaves. Tea is one of the most joyfully enjoyed beverages in Sri Lanka. James Taylor, in the 1800s, introduced tea to Sri Lanka. After starting a tea plantation in Kandy, he made his first sale in the city of Kandy. The tea industry has since been growing, and today, Sri Lanka exports world-class tea to the entire world. The ideal climate conditions play a considerable role in the success of Sri Lankan tea. More than 4% of Sri Lanka’s land is covered with tea plantations and estates. Most of Sri Lanka’s best tea plantations are in the central highlands. Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Bandarawela, and Haputale are some of the areas in which tea grows mostly.
From tea to the cup – Ceylon Tea manufacturing
Sri Lanka is the custodian of traditional, orthodox methods of black tea manufacturing, thus producing premium-quality tea. The orthodox process is slower than other methods and is labor-intensive. But one cannot make good tea in a hurry. Time dedicated to each step from plucking determines the quality of the final product. Below are the essential steps in tea manufacturing and not a single step can be compromised or altered.
The process of tea manufacturing starts with the plucking of tea leaves. Usually, women pluck the tea leaves, and the taste and aroma of the final product depend on how they pluck them. Two leaves and a bud often is what they pluck, leaving the stem undamaged. The uppermost foliage of every stem is what tea manufacturers use to make tea. A skilled tea-plucker plucks up to 20kg of leaves every day.
Once plucked, tea leaves are brought in sacks to the factory, where the real process begins. Before anything, the workers weigh the tea leaves, and the weight recorded for a day is the benchmark for quality assurance at the end of the process. Following weighing comes the withering of tea leaves.
After weighing, the workers start to layer and spread the leaves on racks to dry. Leave lie here from 18 to 24 hours, slowly losing moisture and undergoing chemical reactions, which are essential in manufacturing. Over-withering leaves can lose the manufacturer the whole batch. Therefore, this is a crucial stage that has to be monitored carefully. Withering is usually complete when two-thirds of moisture has evaporated.
Withered leaves are now ready for rolling. Rolling Leaves is a mechanical process wherein the leaf cells are burst out, bringing enzymes that need to connect with air. The next step is aeration, and rolling is what prepares the leaves for aeration. Dhools, which means the broken and rolled leaves, are sifted before aeration.
During this critical process, air contacts with the leaf tissue and a chemical reaction take place. The rolled leaves are spread out on tables for aeration from 20 minutes to five hours. The amount of time kept for aeration depends on the final product. Aeration is what we call oxidation or fermentation. Under-aerated tea tastes raw and looks green. Over-aerated tea tastes nothing and looks soft. Therefore, it is one of the crucial steps in manufacturing tea.
After aeration, leaves go under a drying process. This happens to prevent any more chemical reactions from taking place. After leaves go through the firing chamber, they change in color and carries a dark color. This completes the actual manufacture of black Ceylon tea.
The size of the leaf does not have anything to do with the quality of the tea. But it does affect the strength and color of the brew. Dust is the smallest grade. Larger grades tend to demand higher prices.
After grading, manufacturers pack tea according to their specific grade. Tea leaves are packed wither the traditional way in wooden chests or modern aluminum-lined sacks.
Teabags and CTC
Typical Ceylon tea does not undergo the CTC (Cut, Tear, and Curl) method. Instead, it takes the traditional, orthodox way as it is designated for premium-quality tea. Since the demand for tea bags rose higher in the world market, Sri Lankan tea manufacturers started manufacturing tea for tea bags as well. Tea leaves do not go through the traditional way when manufacturing for teabags. Instead, they take the CTC process for teabags.
Types of Ceylon Tea
The opulent taste and quality of Ceylon tea is no secret to the world. From plucking to packing, there is a lot of dedication and careful inspection involved. That is what makes Sri Lankan tea so special. More than 188,000 hectares of tea cultivation produce more than 298,000 tons of tea, which marks more than 19% of world exports for tea. Sri Lankan tea that goes around the world comes under three main categories. Black tea being the most enjoyed and popular type of tea makes more than two-thirds of the entire tea manufacture. Then comes green tea and white tea or Silver Tips.
Ceylon black tea
For centuries, Ceylon tea, especially black tea, has been the most loved by the entire world. Sri Lanka’s black tea is the cleanest black tea in the world and is free of harmful chemicals and additives. Masterful tea pluckers work their magic fingers to pluck two leaves and a bud for premium quality black tea. Afterward, they undergo the typical, traditional process of withering, rolling, fermenting (aeration), drying, and sifting. Then comes the grading of black tea. Orange Pekoe is the largest rolled wiry leaf. This grading system goes until dust grade, each having different strengths and a flavor. Sri Lankan manufacturers also produce specialty teas with black tea such as English Breakfast, English Afternoon, Earl Grey, Black Tea with Berries, Rose and French Vanilla, Irish Breakfast, and many more.
Ceylon Green Tea
Tea lovers are in the process of finding joy and taste of Ceylon green tea. Just like black tea, Ceylon green tea is now gaining popularity all around the world. Even though the green tea industry in Sri Lanka is younger than the black tea industry, it is growing rapidly in the Middle-Eastern and the Soviet Union markets. Green tea is rich in antioxidants, and it takes a different route compared to black tea. Although green tea comes from the same plant as black tea, the leaves do not undergo a fermentation process. It leaves the antioxidant properties within the tea leaf. When manufacturing green tea, the leaves go through picking, withering, heating, rolling, drying, and sifting. It avoids the aeration or fermentation process and is free of harmful chemicals. Ceylon green tea too has specialties such as Real Leaf, Jasmine, Lemongrass, and Mint.
Ceylon White Tea
White tea is the least processed tea of all types of Sri Lankan Tea. And it is packed with healthy nutrients and antioxidants. Also going by the name ‘Silver Tips,’ White tea is one of the pricy types of tea in Sri Lanka. For tea lovers who enjoy a mild flavor, white tea is the best. The process of making white tea is entirely different from black tea and green tea. Female tea pluckers pick only the bud from the tree, and it is done at dawn. These buds do not undergo fermentation, and they roll these buds from the hand individually. Ceylon white tea is the only white tea that is entirely handmade. You can find white tea in pyramid bags in tea shops in Sri Lanka. White tea contains the least number of caffeine and is high in antioxidant properties.
Famous white tea specialties are Real White Tea, Ceylon Silver Tips, White Litchee hand-rolled tea, and Jade Butterfly handmade white tea.
Ceylon tea benefits
All types of Ceylon teas are free from harmful chemicals. Therefore, they contain a lot of healthy properties. For instance, Ceylon Green and white tea contain a lot of antioxidants which purifies your system. Drinking a cup of black tea improves the brain’s functionality and gives more stamina. White tea reduces anxiety and brings calmness after drinking. Health benefits of Ceylon tea are one of the reasons why it is so popular among nations.
Sri Lankan tea brands
Sri Lanka is one of the most famous tea manufacturers in the whole world. The most premium tea brands in Sri Lanka are Dilmah and Mlesna. Apart from being exported, these brands are only bought by a niche market in Sri Lanka. Apart from those, Sri Lanka has many other famous tea brands such as Lipton, Zesta, Akbar, Sultan, and Hyson. You may wonder, ‘How many teas are there in the world?’ There are over 20,000 different kinds, flavors, and specialties of tea in the world. And Sri Lanka is a proud owner of many kinds of premium tea.
The Bottom Line: The secret behind the world’s best tea – Ceylon Tea
Unlike many other tea manufacturers in the world, what makes Sri Lankan tea so unique is the delicate way it is processed. Sri Lanka goes by the orthodox and traditional way of manufacturing tea with premium quality. Ceylon Tea is a beverage that the entire world loves to enjoy. From plucking to packing, every step of the way is carefully monitored to bring the best flavor, strength, and quality of tea. That is why Sri Lanka is one of the biggest players in the tea industry worldwide.!