Ceylon tea was created by British colonists during their time in Sri Lanka in the 1820’s. The Ceylon region appears to have been one of the last regions at the time to surrender to the British during their colonization efforts. Tea plants from China were brought in by the British in 1824 to the Ceylon region due to its ideal climate for cultivation. In the 1830’s further transplanting was brought in from the Assam and Calcutta regions to expand the Ceylon’s overall tea production. By the early 1900’s, production had exploded in Sri Lanka, so much so that by the time they regained their independence in 1948, Sri Lanka had become one of the largest exporters in the world. Today, the country as a whole is the 4th largest exporter of tea around the globe. The Ceylon region produces the largest share of tea within the country today.
Ceylon is one of the few styles of tea that is heavily regulated in Sri Lanka. “Pure” Ceylon is equivalent to champagne in that it must be grown, cultivated and bagged from within the region. Because of its unique situation, Ceylon is highly sought after as a black and a white tea, and makes up nearly 10 percent of the global market in tea sales.
Types of Ceylon
Black tea is the most common among the three Ceylon styles. The grading for black teas is more robust than the other teas, ranging from Orange Pekoe tea down to dust (or in some parts of the world, fannings). The highest grade, Orange Pekoe, requires a full leaf structure and a classic elongated/wiry appearance. The leaves beyond Orange Pekoe usually possess defects to them, either being broken or not holding the ideal shape (and thus a different flavoring). Dust is used for tea blends, as it is the cheapest and tends to lose its character at this stage.
Green tea is the least consumed among the three styles produced in Sri Lanka. It is generally known for its bitter taste. The tea requires harvesting younger leaves which possess a higher concentration of antioxidants. Recently, western culture has turned to utilizing teas for their healing properties and other healthy lifestyle benefits. As a result, there has been a recent rise in popularity among this genre of tea.
White tea is most commonly known for being cultivated as the coveted Silver Tips style of Ceylon. It is considered to be the most floral, light and sweet tasting of the three. This type of tea requires an early morning harvest, usually before dawn, by skilled harvesters. The youngest leaves and buds are harvested for this tea, which makes it a more time consuming picking. It is more difficult to find the appropriate foliage and buds for this genre of tea. Consequently, Silver Tips is known for being quite pricey, and thus this tea is more of a niche market for those looking to expand their palettes.