Samley Teas - A Glimpse at Ceylon Tea


The tea plant belongs to the genus Camellia, which includes as many as 82 named species mainly distributed in the main lands of South- East Asia. Besides tea (Camellia Sinensis), is consumed as a beverage after brewing. Further this genus includes many ornamental plants.

Tea probably originated in China as its earliest mention is in a Chinese dictionary of 350 BC. By 1834, the British started cultivating tea in their own colony of India by getting down plants, experts and labour from China. The first authenticated batch of tea seeds to reach Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) was planted at the Royal Botanical Garden at Peradeniya in December 1839. However the first commercial planting of tea in Sri Lanka was undertaken by James Taylor only in 1867, on 19 acres of land on Loolecondera estate, Hewaheta. This was carried out with the idea of testing tea as a possible alternate crop for coffee, which was facing an economic slump at that time. This proved a timely venture as the coffee leaf rust disease (Hemileiavastatrix) made its appearance about 18 months after; in 1869. This disease ravaged the coffee plantations and eventually destroyed the entire coffee industry within 25 years of its first appearance.

Taylor had acquired some basic knowledge of tea cultivation in North India and made some initial experiments in manufacture, using his bungalow veranda as the factory and rolling the leaf by hand on tables. Firing of the oxidized leaf was carried out on clay stoves over charcoal fires with the leaf on wire trays.His first teas were sold locally and were declared delicious. By 1872, Taylor had a fully equipped factory and 1873; his first quality teas were sold for a very good price at the London auction. Through his dedication and determination, Taylor was largely responsible for the early success of the tea crop in Ceylon.

That cup of tea that you may have been sipping for years not only has become a trendy habit but also healthy one.Today the tea drinking habit has spread all over the world. It is second only to water as the most favourite beverage on earth. Most people drink tea as a social drink because its pleasantness and stimulating character. Years ago one of the few places to find green tea was in Japanese restaurants. Now green or black tea is everywhere; served hot or iced, restaurants, supermarkets, or in well-designed department stores and also enjoying a cup of tea more or less has become a social event.The important components of made tea as far as tea and health are concerned, are the water-soluble components that come in to the cup on brewing.