Ceylon tea is known to many tea lovers. Its taste and aroma is very unique and distinctive.
If you just started exploring what kind of teas are out there, or want to learn more about his tea, this story is for you.
Ceylon tea is one of a kind not only for its taste but also for its origins and interesting history.
What is Ceylon tea?
Many people have this question because the name does not represent the company that supplies it or the country (at least not the one that we learn about at school), or the owner.
Ceylon tea is grown in beautiful Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon before its independence. The name of the country changed, but we still call tea by its original name.
Sri Lanka ranks third in the word in tea production after China and India. Tea export is one of the key sectors of the Sri Lankan economy.
History of Ceylon tea production
Originally cinnamon was grown on Ceylon island during Dutch colonization. Later, during the British period, a monopoly of the East India Company took over cinnamon growth and growing cinnamon on Ceylon became unprofitable.
During 1800s coffee became very popular and Britain started growing coffee on the island in place of cinnamon. Coffee plantations were growing and the industry was doing very well.
However, in in the late 1860s a fungal infection of hemileia vastatrix destroyed all of Ceylon’s coffee plantations and industry ceased to exist.
Around this time Jim Taylor, a Scottish planter, started planting tea in Kandy, Ceylon. He delivered Ceylon black tea to London in 1890s. The price for Ceylon tea was much lower than the price for Indian tea and the quality was just as good.
That caught attention of English entrepreneur Thomas Lipton, who was a founder of the legendary brand of English tea. Thomas Lipton supplied London with Indian tea at the time. He visited Ceylon, bought few acres of tea plantation and started supplying London with Ceylon tea. Pure Ceylon tea costed way less than Indian tea and almost anyone in England could afford it. Queen Victoria awarded the title of knight to Thomas Lipton for his services to kingdom. Lipton later extended the tea trade to the United States.
Tea plantations grew in Ceylon. If in 1875 the area of tea plantations on the island was 1,000 acres, then by 1895 it occupied more than 300,000 acres and continued to grow.
Now days Sri Lanka produces over 300 million kg of tea per year. Tea comes in all forms and packages: loose leaves, paper packages, tower packages and blends.
Types of Ceylon tea
Sri Lanka is a very unique island that has valleys, terrains and high mountains. Tea can be grown in dry, sunny or wet conditions, hot or mild temperatures, as well as at low, mid and high altitudes. Ceylon tea taste, aroma and colour depends on where tea plant was grown and harvested, what parts of plant were used and how tea plant parts were treated after harvesting.
Sri Lanka has seven districts and each district is unique with its own elevation, climate, temperatures and weather. So tea has slightly different colour, taste and aroma.
Ceylon black tea
For over the century this ceylon loos leaf black was one of the best loose teas in the world. This type of tea is grown in the hot and moist climate with moderate temperature. Ceylon black tea is the most oxidized one; oxidation causes tea to turn black in colour. Also, due to this process, black tea caffeine level is the highest among all teas.
A cup of black Ceylon tea contains 50 to 90 milligrams of caffeine.
Ceylon green tea
Green tea industry is relatively young in Sri Lanka, but is developing rapidly.
In production of green tea the oxidation step is omitted and fresh leaves go straight to the drying process either by steam or by heating. That is why natural green colour of the plant is preserved.
Green has less amount of caffeine than the black tea – around 35 milligrams of caffeine per cup.
Ceylon white tea
Another name for white tea is “silver tips”. This is the most expensive Ceylon tea and produced in limited quantity. Tea leaves and buds are picked by hand at dawn. There is no fermentation process and tea dries naturally in the sun. The end product transforms into “silvery” colour, hence the name “silver tips”.
White tea contains the least amount of caffeine – it has about 6 milligrams per cup.
Ceylon tea benefits for health
Many researches show positive benefits of drinking loose tea for our health, including Ceylon tea.
Ceylon tea is rich in anti-oxidants which play a huge role in preventing chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart diseases and cancer.
Tea can also assist in weight loss by blocking the digestion and absorption of fat. It also contains enzymes that can assist in breaking up digested fat.
Some researches also show that Ceylon tea may help keep blood sugar steady and protect people from sugar spikes.
Drinking tea can also support heart health and decrease risk factors for heart diseases.
Side effects of Ceylon tea
As I mentioned before tea does contain caffeine which might not be suitable for some people.
Excessive amount of caffeine could lead to anxiety, stress, high blood pressure and insomnia.
Pregnant women should limit tea intake due to caffeine.
Tea is not suitable for young children.
Always check your medication for possible interactions (some antibiotics and heart medications are not suitable with caffeine intake).
How does Ceylon tea taste like?
There are seven districts in Sri Lanka that have different altitudes, weather, temperature, dryness and wind.
Due to all these factors tea has different taste and aroma to satisfy anyone’s preferences.
1. The Kandy district is located in the central province of Sri Lanka. Its elevation is about 1,900-3,900 feet above the sea level Tea from this area produce infusions with dark copper hue and has fair strength and body.
2. The Nuwara Eliya district has elevation as high as 6,200 feet above the sea level. Temperature here is rather cold and windy. Tea takes much longer to grow. This tea has a golden hue and is very delicate and smooth.
3. The Dimbula district has altitude 3,400 – 5,400 feet above sea level, and is wet and misty throughout the year. Tea from this area is described having a bright taste ranging from rich to delicate with an average strength.
4. Uda Pousselava is also wet and misty district. Tea here has a delicate taste of medium strength and may have a hint of rose aroma.
5. Uva Province (2,900-4,900 feet above sea level). You an find a variety of blends with smooth medium taste. Lipton ceylon tea was cultivated in this part of the island.
6. The Sabaragamuwa province produces tea with sweet mellow caramel taste.
7. The Ruhuna district (1,900 m above sea level) – rich soil in this area produces tea that is very rich and strong in taste. Once brewed it is dark in colour and its taste has a touch of sweetness.
How to brew the perfect tea
If you ask a true tea lover what kind of tea leaves they are using, they will all reply that loose leaf tea tastes the best. And it is true. Loose tea has richer taste and aroma.
Having said that you can still enjoy the beautiful tea taste using paper and tower packages.
- Boil fresh water (preferably water from natural sources with the lowest mineral content). Never use previously boiled water, it will ruin the taste. Also do not boil water for a long time, turn your kettle off as soon as water starts boiling. Long boiled water lacks oxygen which impacts tea taste.
- Pour small amount of boiled water in your tea pot and let is heat for a minute. Also warm up your utensils. Discard this water from a teapot.
- Quickly add loose leaf tea to a teapot using one teaspoon of tea leaves per person and one per teapot; or one tea bag per person.
- Add about 1/3 of desired amount of boiled water in a teapot and let tea brew for 3-5 minutes.
- Add the rest of the water and stir your tea before pouring to the cup.
- If you are drinking tea with milk, pour milk first into the cup and then add tea.
You can drink your tea pure or add some milk, sugar, syrup, spices to it. You can also make blends with herbs and even fruit to achieve a variety of unusual tastes.
Check out THIS PAGE to find recipes of delicious beverages with ceylon tea for your enjoyment.