The tea industry in Sri Lanka has played an important role in the economy of Sri Lanka since the past. The tea production of Sri Lanka, formerly called Ceylon tea, is one of the main income sources of the country. When it comes to the contribution to the national output, employment, and net foreign exchange earnings, Ceylon Tea is in the top of the list. Sri Lanka has been ranked as the fourth-largest producer of tea in the world and second-largest exporter. Around 20% of tea available in the world market is from Sri Lanka.
In the past, Hill country of Sri Lanka was largely wild and ragged sweep of jungle-clad mountains. But during the British rule, they came up with the idea of planting tea in the hill country by chopping down the jungle. So, hill country became one giant tea estate and with the time tea plantation was spreaded throughout the country and earned a lot of income by that. The tea industry in Sri Lanka has undergone a number of changes over the last 150 years. During this period the ownership of tea lands has changed from privately owned large scale plantations to nationalized tea plantations managed by the state and to the present day regional plantation companies owned by private companies. Sri Lankan tea is now famous across the world, and visiting a tea estate, staying in a converted tea planter’s cottage or merely sipping a cup of tea in local tea shop is one of the great pleasures of traveling in Sri Lanka.
Tea production in Sri Lanka is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka and accounts for 2% of GDP. It employs, directly or indirectly over 1 million people on tea plantations and estates. The humidity, cool temperatures and rainfall of the country’s central highlands provide a climate that favors the production of high-quality tea. On the other hand, tea produced in low elevation areas such as Matara, Galle and Ratnapura districts with high rainfall and warm temperature has a high level of astringent properties. Recently, the smallholder
sector of the tea industry has also grown eclipsing the tea plantations as the main source of tea production in the country. The industry is changing rapidly in many other ways as well, due to increased international competition, expansion of the smallholder tea sector, labor issues, automation, changes in demand for tea, climate change and multiplication of quality standards.
Drinking a cup of tea or buying a couple of tea items is something you should not miss on your visit to Sri Lanka. But speaking of the truth, it really is not the best way to get to know about the real aspect of Ceylon tea. What you truly have to do is walking down those spectacular tea estate paths and experience it by yourself. On the dim mist covered mornings, it has fresh crunchy leaves with dew floating in the air. The rolling misty green views of tea plantations spreading out right next to your feet is an enthralling sight. If you’re lucky enough to time it right, you may even pass a few colorful tea pluckers, with the large baskets carried on their backs fastened with a loop over the top of their heads.
Ceylon Tea Museum
The Sri Lanka Tea Board opened a Tea Museum in Hantana, Kandy in 2001. Although exhibits are not abundant they do provide valuable insight into how tea was manufactured in the early days. Old machinery, some dating back more than a century, has been lovingly restored to working order. The first exhibit that greets visitors is the Ruston and Hornsby developed diesel engine, as well as other liquid fuel engines, located in the Engine Room on the ground floor of the museum. Power for the tea estates was also obtained by water-driven turbines. The museum’s “Rolling Room"” offers a glimpse into the development of manufacturing techniques, with its collection of rollers. Here the showpiece is the manually operated ‘Little Giant Tea Roller’. The Ceylon Tea Museum provides essential insight into the growth of Ceylon Tea through history. Tea fans should definitely visit it when you come to Sri Lanka.