History of Ceylon Tea

Fungus and a flying Scotsman, the history of tea in Sri Lanka is rather fascinating. It all begins with coffee! Coffee was the main crop grown in this beautiful island of the Indian Ocean. But in 1869, a fungus destroyed much of the coffee plants, forcing the estate owners to come up with a quick alternative for their livelihood.

It was a certain Scotsman, called James Taylor, who had come to live in British Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka), who decided to diversify into tea, and Bob’s your uncle….that’s how Ceylon tea plantation went from being an alternative crop to being the greatest asset of Sri Lanka.

By 1890, the tea export from Loolecondera estate (where Taylor worked) took to the skies, growing from 23 pounds a year to 22,900 tonnes!

Let’s name drop, shall we!

Henry Randolph Trafford- was a British stalwart and one of the pioneers of tea plantation in Sri Lanka.

Thomas Lipton- yes, the name behind Lipton Tea, a millionaire and incidentally also a Scotsman is credited for establishing the export and auction of Ceylon tea in London.

Thomas Amarasuriya- was the first Ceylonese to become the Chairman of the Planter’s Association (est. in 1915).


Since Way Back when

The Colombo Tea Traders Association (est. in 1894) controls the auction system making the produce of plantations available to all buyers, whilst the Sri Lankan Tea Board (est. in 1976) plays the regulatory role of ensuring that the Trade continues without malpractices. It also issues the Lion Logo which is a symbol of quality pure Ceylon tea.