Tea in Ceylon became a reality due to extreme events the island experienced that changed the course of history. Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was called during the British colonization was an island famous for Coffee during the 1800s.After the annexation of the Kandian kingdom in 1815 the island saw many coffee plantations springing up to make  use of the fertile land. The Island had around 200 Coffee plantations as far as the eye could see in most regions. Then suddenly came something that would change the course of history forever, the island was hit by blight or coffee rust as it was known as. This made most plantations that were thriving, lose everything overnight.

James Taylor who I considered as the father of Ceylon Tea



Tea is grown in 7 agro climatic regions in Ceylon, giving a spectrum of tastes, colors and bouquets to the drinker to experience with all their senses. The 7 regions in turn are segregated into 3 groupings that consider elevations.

  • High Grown – Nuwaraeliya, Uda pussellawa, Uva
  • Medium Grown – Dimbula, Kandy
  • Low Grown – Sabaragamuwa, Ruhuna



  • High Grown – 41,137    A                   19%
  • Medium Grown – 71,018 A                    32%
  • Low Grown – 109,814 H.A                    49%
  • Total planting in Ceylon 221,969 A

To better understand the wide spectrum of sensory experiences that Ceylon Tea can bring to a Tea drinker, the Sri Lanka Tea board (SLTB) has branded each agro climatic region that Ceylon Tea is planted in.



This region was uninhabited and discovered only in 1818 by an English explorer. Ceylon Tea is grown here at the highest average elevation with a rugged and mountainous terrain. Sits on a plateau under the shadow of the highest mountain in the island “Mount Piduruthalagala’. This unique climate, combined with the terrain peculiar to the region, produces a tea that is recognized by connoisseurs as among the finest – if not the finest – in the world.

  • Dubbed as the “Champaign of Ceylon Teas” due to its light bright color once brewed.
  • Most sought after grades of Tea – OP( Orange Pekoe) & BOP( Broken Orange Pekoe)
  • Cup –light, bright
  • Flavor Notes – delicately fruity fragrant with notes of citrus and pleasant on the palate
  • Classification – Ceylon High Grown

Tea Taster’s notes –

Combined with low temperature, this region produces teas of exquisite bouquet. The infusion in the cup is the lightest (palest) of all the types of Ceylon Tea, with a golden hue and a delicately fragrant flavour.



The history of this region starts with the plantation enterprise. Home to Hortain plains which is a rich bio diversified plateau that’s home to many wild elephants, birds and various species of animals. Quality season in this region which starts at the start of the year and continues to march/April produces some of the most sought after Tea in the world. This particular Tea offering though a Ceylon Black Tea gives the drinker hints of fresh peppermint and menthol all naturally occurring in the Tea leaf during manufacture.              

  • Cup – Bright and clear, produces a fine golden-orange hue in the cup.
  • Flavor notes – sometimes Jasmine mixed with cypress , sweet spices
  • Classification – Ceylon High Grown

Tasters note –

Between Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains lies the district of Dimbula, whose teas are defined as “high grown” as all estates exceed an altitude of 1,250m (4000 Feet). The complex topography of the region produces a variety of microclimates, which produce differences in flavour – sometimes jasmine mixed with cypress. All, however, share the Dimbula character: a tea that produces a fine golden-orange hue in the cup, and which is refreshingly mellow.



This region is situated between the UVA and Kandy regions on the eastern slopes of the islands mountainous central province. It’s a thinly populated area which is dedicated to Tea cultivation although, a cordoned off section known as Hukgala is a natural reserve remains untouched. Due to this we still find

  • Cup – Light , bright
  • Flavor notes –Strong &intense with exquisitely subtle notes of tangerine
  • Classification – Ceylon High Grown

Taster note –

The Uda Pussellawa district is situated close to Nuwara Eliya, so its tea is often compared to that of its neighbor. But it is darker in the cup, with a pinkish hue, of greater strength, and exquisitely tangy. Colder conditions at year end supposedly add a hint of rose to the bouquet of a tea known for its medium body and subtle character. Heavy rainfall, though, tends to produce tea that is even darker and stronger-flavored.


KANDY TEA, 2000-4000FT

Kandy has a special pace in Ceylon Tea history. Its home to the famous Loolacondria Estate where the very first Tea sapling was planted there by the Father of Ceylon Tea James Taylor. This region has very unique terrain. It’s blessed with steep mountains and deep valleys all which are skillfully utilized to plant many types of crop and foliage.

  • Exposure to both monsoons in the island gives the tea an unmistakable exotic character.
  • Brew is deep colored and stronger than other region                               
  • Cup -Golden hued
  • Flavor notes – Thick , malty & bursting with flavor
  • Classification – Ceylon High Grown

Tasters note –

Kandy teas tend to produce a relatively bright infusion with a coppery tone. Though lighter in the cup, they present a good deal of strength and body, though not as much as the lower-grown products of Sabaragamuwa and Ruhuna. Most Kandy-district estates lie on the western slopes of the hills, so their taste is influenced by the ‘western quality season’, meaning that the best tea is produced during the first quarter of the year, when cool, dry weather sets in across the district.


UVA TEA, 2000-4000FT ABOVE SEA LEVEL             

  • Cup -Bright yellow orange cup
  • Flavor notes – brisk taste with fruity notes leaving a soft sweet aftertaste
  • Classification – Ceylon High Grown


Taster Notes- 

The remote Uva district is exposed to the winds of both northeast and southwest monsoons, believed to endow the tea produced here with a special, unmistakable character and exotically aromatic flavor. It was with tea grown on his Uva estates that Thomas Lipton, the Victorian magnate, persuaded Americans to drink tea. The mellow, smooth taste of Uva tea, once experienced, is easily distinguished.



  • Cup -Scarlet colored
  • Flavor notes – Thick , smooth and colored
  • Classification – Ceylon Low Grown

Tasters note –

Sabaragamuwa is Sri Lanka’s biggest district, the teas of which are low-grown as its estates range in elevation from sea level to 610m (2000 Ft). Sabaragamuwa, sandwiched between Sinharaja in the south and Adam’s Peak wilderness in the north, produces a fast-growing bush with a long leaf. The liquor, too, is similar to that of Ruhuna teas, dark yellow-brown with a reddish tint. The aroma, however, is noticeably different from the Ruhuna product, with a hint of sweet caramel, not quite as strong: yet exceptionally stylish.



  • Cup -Bright amber
  • Flavor notes – Fresh earthy aroma with a hint of fruits
  • Classification – Ceylon Low Grown

Taster note –

The SLTB is the sole governing body that ensures quality when it comes to production and final output.




Black tea manufacture is a 5 step process which involves the following.

  1. Withering
  2. Rolling
  3. Fermentation
  4. Drying
  5. Sifting and Packing



Green leaf is plucked by hand taking utmost care, through experience we have found that harvesting two leaves and a bud is important to manufacture the best Ceylon Tea. Freshly plucked green leaf is brought to the factory where it is sent for withering. The main objective of withering is to reduce the moisture content of the leaf (Approximately 45 %). This process takes between 6 hours to 14 hours depending on the humidity levels of the environment.  The leaf is spread along troughs in the upper floors of the factory and the tea is manually handled in order to assist the drying process. At times hot air is sent through the troughs in order to facilitate the drying process.

This stage is important to ensure proper rolling of the Tea leaves.

When withering the leaves, here are some points to make sure it’s done correctly

  • If the wither is perfect you can make a ball out of the leaf by squeezing it in the palm of your hand.
  • During the season properly withered leaf feels ice cold when touched.



Rolling is done using machines and it is an important process when it comes to enhancing the taste and flavor of the tea. Normally the rolling process takes place for around 30 min. During this period the leaf is rolled for a period of 7 min with a 3 min rest. This process continues for 30 min. There are 2 main objectives in the rolling process.

  • Twist the leaf in order to begin enzyme reactions that bring out the unique taste & flavor.
  • Break the inner cells in the leaf in order to bring out the flavor

Depending on the type of the final grade you require the well rolled leaf is sent to one of the following process.

  • Rota vane – This is the process where the leaf is crushed into small particulars using a Rota vane machine in order to quicken the enzyme reactions. The Rota vane process is ideal for a thick colored cup. It should also be noted that whilst the tea obtains its strength and color from this stage it also loses its character and flavor as a result of the leaf being crushed.

The Rota vane process is essential to manufacture small leaf grades such as BOP, BOPF and FNGS 1.

After the Rota vane process the tea is then passed on to fermentation.

  • Orthodox method – The rolled leaf is sent to the next process which is known as fermentation. The leaf particulars will be larger in comparison to the Rota vane method.

During the rolling process further moisture is reduced from tea.



This is the process where tea is laid on a tiled floor in order for it to absorb and react with oxygen. Due to this chemical reaction the green leaf starts turning into a dark brown texture. The fermentation process is around 2-3 hours from the time the leaf is sent through the roller. The moisture of the leaf is around 55% during the fermentation process.



Drying is done using machines called driers and tea is sent through temperatures as high as 258f. Drying further reduces the moisture of the leaf. This process is important in order to get a black texture by reducing almost 95% of moisture. Tea should be fed to the dryer at a correct pace in order to ensure that the final product is not over fired or burnt which will result in an unpleasant taste. This is a skill honed throughout time passed on from generation to generation that makes Ceylon Tea what it is today focusing on quality rather than quantity.




This is where tea is separated into different grades. Different grades are separated through sorting machines which use various mesh sizes in order to extract grades which the consumers prefer. After being separated into grades tea is sent through a fiber extractor as well as a stalk extractor in order to remove the unwanted particles.



BOP Neat in style and of medium size, devoid of fine particles (Fannings and Dust)

BOP Sp. Much superior to and neater than BOP

BOPF Neat in style, smaller than BOP and devoid of fine Dust particles

BOPF Sp. Much superior to and neater than BOPF

FBOP Smaller and shorter than BOP1 and larger than FBOPF1, preferably with a presence of tips,

PEKOE – a) Orthodox/Rotor vane manufacture: Neat, with fair twist, larger than BOP and could be choppy b) Leafy manufacture: Shotty, curly or semi curly leaf of large size

PEKOE 1 Shotty, curly, smaller in size than PEKOE



BOP Neat in style and of medium size, devoid of fine particles [Fannings and Dust

BOP Sp. Much superior to and neater than BOP

BOPA Flaky and larger than BOP

BOPF Neat in style, smaller than BOP and devoid of fine Dust particles

BOPF Sp. Much superior to and neater than BOPF


OP 1 Long, wiry and well twisted

OP Less wiry than OP1 and better twisted [less bold] than OPA

OPA Long and bold with fair twist and preferably without excessive stalk

BOP 1 Wiry, twisted and shorter than OP1

FBOP 1 Longer than FBOP, twisted and wiry, preferably with a presence of tips

FBOP Smaller and shorter than BOP1 and larger than FBOPF1, preferably with a presence of tips,

FBOPF Similar in size to BOP and preferably with a presence of tips

FBOPF 1 Larger than FBOPF and smaller than FBOP, preferably with a presence of tips

FBOPF Sp. Similar in size to FBOPF or FBOPF1, with a fair presence of tips

FBOPF Ex. Sp.Similar in size to FBOPF Sp., with an attractive show of golden or silver tips

BOPF Ex. Sp. 1 Larger and leafier than FBOPF Ex. Sp., with an attractive show of golden or silver tips.

PEKOE a) Orthodox/Rotorvane manufacture: Neat, with fair twist, larger than BOP and could be choppy b) Leafy manufacture: Shotty, curly or semi curly leaf of large size

PEKOE 1 Shotty, curly, smaller in size than PEKOE

DUST1 Grainy, even, well-made and smaller than BOPF

DUST Similar in size to DUST1, with flaky leaf but reasonably clean

BP Choppy and hard, with some stalk and fiber

BOP1A Semi-leafy and flaky, without excessive stalk and fiber

BM Mixed and flaky, with stalk and fiber

BT Larger than BM, ragged and mixed leaf of varying sizes, with or without stalk and fiber

FNGS1 Small, flaky leaf, without excessive fiber



  1. BP1 Corresponding in size to high grown BOP, but granular
  2. BPS Larger particle size than BP1
  3. PF1 Corresponding in size to high grown BOPF, but granular
  4. OF Smaller than BP1 but larger than PF1
  5. PF [Off Grade] Similar to or slightly larger than PF1 and may contain some fibre
  6. PD Grainy and smaller than PF1
  7. DUST1 Less grainy than PD and clean
  8. DUST [Off Grade] Inferior to DUST1 and may be powdery & fibrous