History of Ceylon Tea

Once there was a 19th Century Scotsman who was to have a major impact on the trade industry of a tiny colonial island. James Taylor was a young man when he travelled to Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was then known. He was given the task of growing tea on a small area of land, just 19 acres, located on the Loolecondera Estate in Kandy. Ceylon was reeling from dying coffee plantations. The once-thriving coffee industry was brought to its knees owing to the onset of the coffee rust disease, which decimated the coffee plantations within a couple of years.

Finding the perfect tea

Ever the perfectionist Taylor loved experimenting with tea to find the perfect method of getting the best brew from the tea leaves. He travelled to India in 1866 to learn about tea and the art of tea cultivation. Upon returning to Ceylon, he set up his own ‘factory’ in his bungalow where he rolled the leaves by hand and fired them on clay stoves. Once done he then left the leaves to air dry. All his hard work paid off, as he produced a delicious tea. He also created machinery to help him with this process and was able to send 23 pounds of tea to London, just over a year later. Taylor is credited with perfecting the art of handpicking ‘two leaves and a bud’.

After the mid-1880s almost all the coffee plantations were converted into tea estates. The coffee stores were converted into tea factories to cater to the growing demands while machinery for these factories was brought in from England, some of which are still used today.

James Taylor was to play an innovative role in developing the tea industry in Ceylon for the remainder of his life, until he passed away at the age of 57 in 1892. It was thanks to his tireless dedication that soon Ceylon Tea was being sought after by tea buyers in London.

Growth of Ceylon Tea

Owing to the rapid growth and popularity an auction system was introduced and on July 30th 1883 the first public tea sale was conducted. Thereafter, in Sri Lanka the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce undertook the responsibility of the tea auctions, with the Ceylon Tea Traders Association being formed in 1894. Even to this day, almost all Ceylon tea is handled by these two associations. Tea remains as one of the most important sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka. Ceylon Tea is one of the most sought after teas in the world.

Continuing the proud heritage

Echoing and preserving Ceylon tea’s 150-year proud heritage, Zesta is the flagship tea brand of Watawala Tea Ceylon Ltd. It was launched in 1998 with the commitment to offer the best cup of Ceylon tea to consumers around the world. This is a promise that has been delivered upon ever since, as Zesta tea is plantation fresh, created by a team of experts who love tea – planters, tasters and marketers – committed to creating the perfect cup of Ceylon tea. Zesta has captured the true essence of Ceylon tea with its wide collection of tea produced. It is a brand respected around the world which is why the Zesta Connoisseur Collection is served at Shangri-La Hotels worldwide at 100 properties in 22 countries.