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The central highlands of Sri Lanka have the perfect ecosystem for growing high-quality tea. The first tea plant arrived in Sri Lanka in 1824 from China, as an ornamental plant for a botanical garden. In the years that followed, more tea plants were brought from Assam, Calcutta and Kenya. The production of tea grew quickly due to how well the plants fared in the highland weather. The rest is Ceylon Tea history. Check out the many kinds of tea you can try in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankans drink black tea very strong with milk and sugar. Sharing a pot in the afternoon is a common way to wind down from a busy day. The tea of choice in most households is the strong black tea, commonly called “Ceylon Tea”. Since tea is so important in Sri Lanka, there are a few specialized tea houses where you can try not only the usual teas but also some new blends and tea cocktails. Visit the t-Lounge by Dilmah in Colombo for the best tea experience on the island. Halpe Tea is also a high contender. Even better, take a train to the tea country and visit the tea factories.
Depending on where the plants grow, the flavor will be different. This is why the tea in Sri Lanka is so special. Ceylon tea, as it has been known since the 19th century, has been the base tea of choice for most tea manufacturers around the world. Sri Lankans believe that their ground water has a magical quality, not only for growing great tea plants but also for brewing it.
There are four basic kinds of tea that can be manufactured from the Camillea Sinensis plant. All sorts of tea come from the same kind of plant, but it is the soil and weather that give each plant a different flavor. There are five areas in Sri Lanka where tea grows, each at a different elevation. Each area produces a slightly different-tasting tea. All Sri Lankan tea manufacturers, like Dilmah and Halpe, offer their tea in loose leaf or pyramid tea bag presentations.
Black tea is the most common kind of tea. Ceylon black tea is considered the cleanest tea in the world, free of harmful pesticides or additives. To make black tea, the leaves are hand plucked by the masterful female tea pluckers. They pick only two leaves and a bud in large quantities, which are then withered, rolled and fermented, then dried and sifted. After the sifting, the leaves are separated into different grades. The largest wiry leaves are called Orange Pekoe, followed by lots of different grades, until dust grade. Every grade has a different color and intensity.
It’s with this great variety of Ceylon black teas that the classic blends are made. In Sri Lanka you can have all the classics plus other specialties:
Ceylon green tea is quickly gaining traction outside of Sri Lanka. The process of making green tea is different to black tea, even though it comes from the same kind of plant. The leaves are unfermented, maintaining their antioxidant attributes. The leaves are picked, withered and heated, then rolled before drying and sifting. Ceylon green tea is pure and clean, just like the black tea. Here are some of the varieties of green tea that you can try in Sri Lanka:
White tea is the most unique tea in Sri Lanka. It’s the also the most expensive, due to how it is harvested. For white tea, only the buds are plucked, and very delicately at dawn. The buds are not fermented at all and are hand rolled individually. White tea is the only tea that is totally handmade. The color of white tea is subtle and light. There is less caffeine and more antioxidants than in green or black tea, making white tea one of the most healthy. White tea is also called “Silver Tips”, and can be found in loose leaf or pyramid bags at all the tea shops in Sri Lanka.
Dilmah Teas has a variety of white teas to try: