Tea Tasting in Sri Lanka
The world of tea can take you to many places across the world. One of the world’s largest producing tea countries is Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon who famously produce some of the best black tea in the world.
As strange as it sounds, the story of tea in Sri Lanka actually began with coffee. When British Colonies invaded Sri Lanka in the early 19th century, they started to create large plantations for growing coffee.
The import duties on coffee in Britain were reduced and coffee drinking became more common. Exports of Ceylonese coffee grew and populations of workers from India were brought over to work on the plantations. However, from the 1870’s onwards, coffee crops became infected by a fungal disease and that was why by the late 19th century, that tea replaced the coffee crop and is now considered the fourth largest tea growing country in the world.
TLC took a tea tasting trip to many different estates in Sri Lanka and after several hours car journey and several thousand feet higher up from Negombo, we finally arrived at our destination, Nuwara Eliya (6,129 ft). The long and steep climb up was definitely made better by Elephant and monkey spotting though!
Ceylon tea is divided into three categories: Low grown tea, medium grown tea and high grown tea (which we at TLC are most interested in). The district that provides the best quality tea and that can be harvested all year round due to the climatic conditions is in the high grown tea district of Nuwara Eliya, also referred to as ‘Little England’ by the Sri Lankan tourist industry.
One of the tea estates that we visited is called Lovers Leap and is located between 4800 to 7600 ft above sea level. It was named Lovers Leap after a tragic legend of two young lovers who leapt from the top of a waterfall located on the estate.
At TLC we travel to some of the best tea estates in the world in order to sample the finest produce. Everything from the climatic conditions, manufacturing process and different clones of the Camellia Sinensis plant (tea) affects the colour and taste of the tea, so we work very closely with the different estates in order to create the perfect blend.
Traditional tea tasting is comprised of lining up the tea cups in a straight line, measuring the exact amount of tea per cup and infusing the leaves for the required time. It’s important to have a clean palate before tasting any tea and to smell the aroma of the leafs in each cup. Using a spoon, the tea is slurped into the mouth with air (It makes a rather funny noise). The tea is then rolled around the tongue before traditionally spitting the tea out (Sometimes the tea just tastes too good to spit out though). It’s important to understand how the liquor smells, whether or not the aroma lingers and also how the infused leafs smell.
On our trip to Lovers Leap, we tasted mainly black teas, however we were also able to try some of the Ceylon green and Oolong teas. (All tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, the difference between all different teas is the manufacturing process of them and I will discuss this in more detail in a later blog post).
Set in a scenic valley full of luscious green vegetation, the picturesque landscape that surrounds Nuwara Eliya is quite extraordinary. TLC is already looking forward to our next visit.