150 Years of Ceylon Tea
Let’s brew a pot of delicious satisfaction. Let’s pour cups of pure enjoyment. Let’s drink to a 150-year heritage of quality and taste. And let us celebrate 150 years of Ceylon Tea! An island’s gift to the world, a beverage so special, its value and appreciation still permeates the world.
When Scotsman, James Taylor planted the first commercial crop in 1867, its delicious taste, aroma and quality gave birth to an iconic brand that paved the way for a multi-million dollar industry. Today, Ceylon Tea epitomises the ‘best tea’ in the world. The Lion logo which symbolises 100% Pure Ceylon Tea is carried across all packaging and is recognised globally, as the ultimate stamp of quality and taste.
The short story about Ceylon Tea
It was during the British era that tea first began to be cultivated and manufactured on the island. Tea from Ceylon soon gained the reputation of being the finest in the world, and tea exports became the mainstay of the colonial economy. Housewives and restaurateurs across the globe grew familiar with the name of the country—learning that its appearance on a tin or packet reliably guaranteed the quality of the tea inside. Independence brought new markets, and production continued to increase. In 1965, Ceylon became the world’s largest exporter of tea—for the first time. And to this day, the island remains one of the largest tea exporters.
It has endured for 150 years and strange as it may seem, the story of Ceylon Tea begins with coffee.
Though records are scant, evidence suggests that the cultivation of tea plants—imported from China—was attempted as early as 1824. Later, Maurice Worms, a member of the Rothschild family of international financiers, planted some China seedlings on Rothschild estates in Pusselawa and Ramboda. He even made tea from the crop using Chinese techniques, though the price, at £5 a pound, was much too high to be competitive.
It was left to a reclusive Scottish planter named James Taylor to succeed with the crop—almost a generation later. Taylor had been experimenting with tea, planting it along the margins of the divisional roads on his coffee estate, Loolecondera. Already in 1866, he had withered the first leaves on his bungalow veranda, trying to emulate the process used by tea planters in Assam, India. By the time the coffee blight struck, Taylor had twenty acres of Loolecondera planted in tea and had shipped his first modest consignment—23 lbs in all— to England. Soon, planters from all over the hill country were visiting Loolecondera to learn how to grow and manufacture tea. Ceylon and its plantation industry were saved.
For over one hundred years thereon, the Tea Industry has sustained the economy of this country and continues to contribute significantly to it. Though currently, eclipsed by one or two other revenue earning sources, which have emerged in more recent years, it is still one of the highest foreign exchange earners for the country, contributing over USD 1.5 billion.
The Tea Industry also supports approximately 20 percent of the country’s population, through direct and indirect employment, even outsourcing dependent families, which extends to a number of ancillary industries, such as shipping, transportation, printing, packaging, etc. Additionally, tea contributes 15% of the nation’s foreign exchange earnings and generates 65% of export agriculture revenue.