Sri Lanka's Tea Plantations

As a nation, we Brits love a cup of tea – in fact for many of us, it’s hard to imagine life without it. When we’re cold a cuppa warms us up, on a summer’s day an iced tea is the perfect cooler, if we’re tired or emotional it’s just what the doctor ordered, and it’s the lynchpin of an elegant Afternoon Tea. Our favourite drink is inexpensive to buy and easy to make, although everyone has their own way of brewing up (the ‘milk in first or last’ debate has divided tea drinkers for centuries)! But enjoy it we do, getting through a grand total of 165 million cups a day.

Tea production is one of Sri Lanka’s largest industries and Ceylon Tea is famous around the world, so why not put the kettle on, grab the biscuit tin and read on as we find out more about the history of Sri Lanka’s tea plantations.

Excellent tea-growing conditions

The central highlands of Sri Lanka offer excellent tea-growing conditions, with cool temperatures, humidity and rainfall the perfect blend for cultivating the perfect blend! However, many people are surprised to hear that in the mid-1800s Sri Lanka was the world’s largest coffee producer. Coffee brought great prosperity to the island but its success was short-lived. In 1869 a plant disease called coffee-rust took hold and destroyed the entire industry.

The beginning of the tea industry

It was in 1867 that British planter James Taylor introduced the first tea plantations to Sri Lanka. He planted around 19 acres of tea close to Kandy and from small beginnings, the industry grew rapidly. In 1890 Thomas Lipton began buying tea estates on the island and he set out to make affordable, quality tea available in markets around the world. He cut out the middlemen, packaged the tea instead of selling it loose and soon Ceylon Tea earned the reputation of being the finest in the world.

Look for the Lion Logo

Plantations at different altitudes and locations across the island produce a wide variety of teas, each with a unique style, taste and character. Only tea that is grown and manufactured entirely in Sri Lanka, to the standard set out by the Sri Lanka Tea Board, is permitted to carry the name ‘Ceylon Tea’. To be branded with the distinctive Lion Logo, the tea also has to be packed on the island.

Visit a tea plantation

Today, emerald-green tea plantations bring an enchanting beauty to the landscape of Sri Lanka and during your holiday you’ll be able to visit a working tea plantation. You’ll see how the tea is picked from the ground and enjoy a tasting of a freshly-brewed cup.

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