History of Ceylon Tea

History of Ceylon Tea

In the early 19th century, the journey of tea cultivation in Sri Lanka began as the first tea plant found its place in 1824 at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, initially intended for ornamental purposes. However, it wasn't until 1867 that a significant turning point occurred with Scottish planter James Taylor initiating tea cultivation at Kandy's Loolecondera Estate, prompted by the ailing coffee industry.

As the tea industry took root, technological advancements played a pivotal role. In 1880, John Walker & Co. introduced the first tea-rolling machine, propelling the growth of tea production. The momentum continued with the inaugural auction of Ceylon Tea in 1883 by Somerville & Co., marking a crucial milestone for the industry.

International recognition followed in 1893 when one million tea packets were sold at the Chicago World Fair, prompting many farms to transition from coffee to tea cultivation. The Ceylon Tea Traders Association was established in 1894 to oversee and promote the burgeoning tea trade.

The late 19th century witnessed a remarkable expansion, with around 400,000 additional acres dedicated to tea cultivation in 1899, signalling a substantial increase in production. This growth trajectory continued into the 20th century.

In 1925, the Tea Research Institute was founded, providing invaluable support to tea makers in enhancing the quality of their products. The industry achieved a significant milestone in 1927 when over 100,000 metric tonnes of tea were exported from Sri Lanka to various countries.

By 1960, Sri Lanka doubled its tea exports, reaching an impressive 200,000 metric tonnes. The year 1966 marked a historic celebration as Sri Lanka commemorated the centenary of tea production with its first international event, symbolizing a century of excellence in tea-making.

This transformative journey, punctuated by experimentation, technological innovation, global recognition, and strategic associations, has positioned Ceylon tea as a hallmark of quality and resilience in the global tea industry.