For centuries, tea has been an integral part of Asian culture, playing a vital role in spiritual and celebratory ceremonies. While still having the same essential cultural significance, tea has traversed oceans and continents and has become one of, if not the most common hot beverage worldwide. Whether you prefer a strong cup of earl grey in the morning to get you started for the day, or a soothing chamomile or linden before going to bed, there is no wrong time for a great cup of tea.
Although its tea history started fairly recently, Sri Lanka has quickly risen among the best tea producers in the world. Known under the former name of the country, Ceylon, Sri Lankan tea, has a distinctive flavour and aroma, characterised by its freshness and notes of citrus, chocolate or spices. A product that began as a diversification experiment in 1867, spanning just 19 acres of land, has today surpassed all geographical borders to fulfil 19% of global demand, making Sri Lanka the third largest tea exporter in the world.
Hand plucked and produced through orthodox methods, preserving traditional processes, Ceylon tea preserves more of the aromas of the tea plant, giving it its specific bold flavour. Orthodox processing means every batch of plucked leaves is treated to a precise amount of withering, rolling and oxidation, determined by trained tea professionals to extract the best flavours. While the labour-intensive production makes Ceylon tea pricier than others, it is precisely what makes it superior.
Quality is the legacy of Ceylon tea. (…) Once the leaves are plucked, the real magic begins.H.E. Grace Asirwatham, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Belgium, Luxemburg and the EU
“Sri Lankan tea is also grown under the highest social and environmental standards, the excellence in process and purity of products being reflected by world class certifications”, H.E. Grace Asirwatham, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Belgium, Luxemburg and the EU said before a Ceylon tea party in Brussels.
Sri Lanka was the first to country to be awarded the “Ozone Friendly Tea” label recognized under the Montreal Protocol Treaty and is also the proud owner of the first Ethical Tea Brand of the World recognized by the United Nations Global Compact. Ceylon Tea is also the cleanest tea in the world in terms of pesticide residues, a fact confirmed by the ISO Technical Committee.
To distinguish the highest quality, pure Sri Lankan teas, from others available around the world, the Sri Lankan Tea Board (SLTB), the Sri Lankan tea industry’s main regulatory and administrative body, was set up. The board inspects tea producers based on strict criteria, awarding the Lion Logo only to those meeting all the requirements on origin and manufacturing. The Lion Logo is a symbol of quality and serves as a testament that the tea inside the package is pure Ceylon tea and nothing else.
Be it white, green, oolong or black, tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant and the high-quality standards in Sri Lanka ensure an excellent experience in a cup, regardless of the colour. What makes the four tea types different from each other is the way the leaves are prepared and how mature they are, which affects both flavour and nutritional content. Black tea is made from leaves that have been withered and then fully oxidized (meaning that chemicals in the leaves are modified through exposure to air). Green tea leaves are not oxidized. Oolong tea is only partially oxidized, while white tea is not oxidized at all and made only from the youngest leaf buds at the top of the plant.
There are different tea growing regions in Sri Lanka, each providing different attributes to the teas. The tea-growing regions are clustered mostly among the central mountains of the island and its southern foothills, divided into seven defined regions or ‘districts’, each of which is known for producing teas of a particular character. Each presents a unique combination of climate and terrain that leaves its mark on the tea it produces, even with considerable variation between sub-districts and individual estates, between successive crops taken from the same estate in successive years and even between different hillsides on the same estate. Regardless of such differences, the regional character of the tea always shines through in any infusion.
The taste, flavour and aroma of teas from each region is also influenced by the elevation level the plants are cultivated at. Low grown teas, grown on an elevation level between sea level and 600m are subjected to long periods of sunshine, dry and somewhat warm and moist conditions, resulting in a black leaf appearance and a burgundy-brown final infusion with heavy notes of malt. High grown teas, grown at altitudes higher than 1,200m, are influenced by the chill winds, dry and cool conditions, making the teas extraordinarily light, with greenish, grassy tones and creating honey-golden infusions.