Ceylon Tea marks its 150th anniversary this year. Most English Breakfast teas, including our own, are a Ceylon blend. Tea from the Manor's English breakfast tea is a traditional blend of teas originating from Assam, Ceylon and Kenya. It is one of the most popular blended teas and the most common form of tea in British tea culture.
Not many people know but Ceylon tea has its roots in coffee! In 1852 James Taylor was sent to the Loolecondera Estate, a coffee plantation in the Kandy District. After a successful few years of coffee bean growing, the owners of the estate suggested Taylor planted some tea plant seedlings. Luckily he took their advice as two years later the coffee rust disease came and over the next twenty years destroyed all the coffee.
In 1871 he sold the first batch of Ceylon tea in the local Kandy market. The year after, Taylor exported the first lot of Ceylon tea. He didn’t stop there as in 1873 he built the first Tea Factory of wattle and baub. He also invented a tea leaf roller powered by a 20ft water wheel. By 1888 Ceylon Tea production was yielding 23,000,000 lbs.
Here is a diary entry from 1877 talking about Ceylon:
‘Never did anything appear so truly beautiful to me as this, my first sight of Ceylon: the sweet little bay dotted here and there with various craft of various build and rig; a regular forest of palms coming right down to the beach, gracing the shore with their rich verdancy, and behind all the most glorious sunrise I ever saw, giving a bright golden tinge to the brilliant mass of green. Truly indeed, I thought does this deserve the name of the earthly paradise.’ ‘This first sight of Ceylon will be forever imprinted on my memory; it will always seem to me like a glimpse into Fairyland’.
In 1891 James Taylor was presented with a tea and coffee service by the Planters association saying “To James Taylor, in grateful appreciation of his successful efforts which laid the foundation of the Tea and Chincona Industries in Ceylon”
By 1965 Sri Lanka had become the world’s largest tea exporter for the first time and a year later the first ever International Tea Convention was held there to mark 100 years of the tea industry there. By 2000 the tea production in Ceylon exceeded 300,000 metric tons.
However you enjoy your Ceylon tea you can sit and relax and think about the 150 year journey it has been on to end up in your cup!