History of Ceylon Tea

Tea is one of nature’s most noble gifts to mankind. History records that Tea was consumed by, Han Dynasty Emperors in China as early as 2nd century BC. It was used as a medicinal beverage in ancient China. Its healing properties were discovered by the Chinese, and was then used as a frequent drink in order to prevent any common illnesses. It was then popularised around other large Asian countries such Japan, Korea and Vietnam before spreading to western nations such as England. Tea is a historic beverage, which has evolved both in technology and in the way it’s consumed to fit the requirements of modern day.

Ceylon tea is known for its superior quality, unmatched character and taste. Tea was first introduced to Sri Lanka, then known as “Ceylon” by the British in the 1800’s. Ceylon at the time was under the British rule as a colony, and was introduced to many different industries new to the country. James Taylor was one of the pioneers who established the Ceylon tea industry in mid country also known as “Kandy”. Coffee was an already well established industry with many coffee plantations operating successfully in mid and up country areas. Coffee plantations were soon converted to tea, pioneered by Henry Randolph Trafford, who had extensive knowledge of tea cultivation. Technology and machinery were imported from England to process the tea leaves, to be sold commercially. Ceylon tea was auctioned to highest bidders at various prices and its popularity grew in a significantly short period of time. In 1893 one million packs of tea were sold at the Chicago World’s Fair.

In the early coffee plantation years, many Indian immigrants were brought down to Ceylon to work in Coffee plantations and were then moved to the Tea plantations during transitions. These plantation workers were taught to meticulously hand pick “two leaves and a bud” from every tea bush, which is practiced to date. This manual method of plucking tea leaves ensures the tea leaves are carefully handled and delivered to the processing plants. The tea pickers are a majority of women who have perfected this type of picking leaves. Throughout the years the art of plucking tea has been handed over to every generation within the families of these communities.

After much success over a long period of time it continued through to the post-colonial era. The government of Sri Lanka continued the tea industry as it began in the early years. In 1971 the government nationalised the tea estates owned by Sri Lankan and British companies.

In 1980 Sri Lanka was the sole tea supplier to the Moscow Olympic games which was a milestone in the history of Ceylon tea. It then moved on to be a commodity, which depicted a strong symbol associated with Sri Lanka.

Ceylon tea is considered a national pride in Sri Lanka and is regarded as a prized treasure which we share with the rest of the world.

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