Foundation of tea plantations

In 1824 a tea plant was brought to Ceylon by the British from China and was planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya for non-commercial purposes. Further experimental tea plants were brought from Assam and Calcutta in India to Peradeniya in 1839 through the East India Company and over the years that followed. In 1839 the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce was also established followed by the Planters' Association of Ceylon in 1854. In 1867, James Taylor marked the birth of the tea industry in Ceylon by starting a tea plantation in Loolecondera estate in Kandy in 1867. He began the tea plantation on an estate of just 19 acres (76,890 m2). In 1872 he started a fully equipped tea factory in the same Loolecondera estate and that year the first sale of Loolecondra tea was made in Kandy. In 1873, the first shipment of Ceylon tea, a consignment of some 23 lb (10 kg), arrived in London. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle remarked on the establishment of the tea plantations, “…the tea fields of Ceylon are as true a monument to courage as is the lion at Waterloo”.

Soon enough plantations surrounding Loolecondera such as Hope, Rookwood and Mooloya situated to the east and Le Vallon and Stellenberg to the south began transforming into tea plantations and were amongst the first tea estates to be established on the island.

Growth and history of commercial production

Henry Randolph Trafford, one of the pioneers of tea cultivation in Ceylon in the 1880s.

By the late 1880s almost all the coffee plantations in Ceylon had been converted to tea. Similarly, coffee stores rapidly converted to tea factories in order to meet the increasing demand for tea. Technology for processing tea developed in the 1880s, after the manufacture of the first "Sirocco" tea drier by Samuel Cleland Davidson in 1877 and the manufacture of first tea rolling machine by John Walker & Co in 1880 set the conditions that would be required to make commercial tea production a reality. This was consolidated in 1884 with the construction of the Central Tea Factory on Fairyland Estate (Pedro) in Nuwara Eliya. As tea production in Ceylon progressed, new factories were constructed, introducing innovative methods of mechanization brought from England. Marshals of Gainsborough of Lincolnshire, the Tangyes Machine Company of Birmingham, and Davidsons of Belfast supplied the new tea factories with machinery which they still supply today.

Tea was increasingly sold at auction as its popularity grew. The first public Colombo Auction was held at the premises of Somerville & Co. on 30 July 1883, under the auspices of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. One million tea packets were sold at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. That same year the tea established a record price of £36.15 per lb at the London Tea Auctions. In 1894 the Ceylon Tea Traders Association was formed and today virtually all tea produced in Sri Lanka is conducted through this association and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. In 1896 the Colombo Brokers' Association was formed and in 1915 Thomas Amarasuriya became the first Ceylonese to be appointed as Chairman of the Planters' Association. In 1925 the Tea Research Institute was established in Ceylon to conduct research into maximising yields and methods of production. By 1927 tea production in the country exceeded 100,000 metric tons (110,231 short tons), almost entirely for export. A 1934 law prohibited the export of poor quality tea. The Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board was formed in 1932.

Today, Sri Lanka is known as the largest exporter of Tea to the world, and hence, 'Ceylon Tea' from Sri Lanka is often acclaimed as the best Tea in the world. Also, reputed for the excellent quality of conventional and organic Tea, low and high grown, from some of the finest Tea gardens in the world, and blended to perfection. Influence of climatic conditions of its plantation allows for a variety of flavors and aromas, synonymous with quality of the final product.

All around the world, connoisseurs of Tea clamored for 'Ceylon Tea' which soon became a household reference for the finest quality Tea. It acquaints that the Sri Lankan population starts and ends the day with a cup of Tea because it has qualities to refresh the hearts and minds and acts as a catalyst.

The Tea cultivating industry in Sri Lanka has always been a vital component of the overall Sri Lankan economy. The Sri Lankan Tea sector employs approximately one million people in this industry, thus also contributing significantly to the country's gross domestic product as well as government revenue. The total extent of Sri Lankan land under Tea cultivation has been assessed at approximately 187,400 hectares. Tea production is a year round phenomenon and cultivation is usually concentrated in the central highlands and the southern inland areas of the island. 'Ceylon Tea' consists of a combination of distinctive, fine rich yet mellow flavor, bright and golden color that appeals to Tea drinkers throughout the world.

As Ceylon tea gained in popularity throughout the world, a need arose to mediate and monitor the sale of tea. An auction system was established and on 30 July 1883 the first public sale of tea was conducted. The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce undertook responsibility for the auctions, and by 1894 the Ceylon Tea Traders Association was formed. Today almost all tea produced in Sri Lanka is conducted by these two organizations.

Formerly Ceylon , is of high importance to the Sri Lankan economy and the world market. The country is the world's third largest producer of tea and the industry is one of the country's main sources of foreign exchange and a significant source of income for laborers, with tea accounting for 15% of the GDP, generating roughly $700 million annually. Sri Lanka was the world's leading exporter of tea (rather than producer) with 23% of the total world export in 1995 but has since been surpassed by Kenya. The tea sector employs, directly or indirectly over 1 million people in Sri Lanka, and in 1995 directly employed 215,338 on tea plantations and estates. The central highlands of the country, low temperature climate throughout the year, annual rainfall and the level of humidity are more favorable geographical factors for production in high quality tea. The industry was introduced to the country in 1867 by James Taylor, the British planter who arrived in 1852.

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