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5 Sweet Facts About Iced Tea

Iced Tea

A tall glass of aromatic iced tea is the ideal treat for those hot summer days, where you can kick back with a glass or jug of tangy, sweet iced tea to beautifully counter the sweltering heat of the sun. Here are some facts you may not have known about this delicious beverage!


Cold water makes for a better iced tea!

What it means is, start the process by using cool water, instead of using already boiled or hot water. Why? Because cooler water has more oxygen, a mandatory ingredient required to open up the flavonoids in the tea leaves while they are being boiled. This process enables to obtain the optimum flavour of the tea. You could choose one from among Zesta’s flavoured tea range or even choose a pure black tea to make your iced tea; the choices are endless! You could either serve it immediately by pouring it over heaps of ice cubes or you could refrigerate it for a while longer.

Tip- Always squeeze a bit of lemon or lime into your iced tea or add in slices of lemon for an optimum taste experience. The secret behind it is that the citric acid from the lime juice preserves the flavonoids in the tea.

Fun Fact- There is a term for when tea leaves uncurl and open while hot water is poured onto them; it is known as “the agony of the leaves”


June is National Iced Tea Month

Americans love iced teas as opposed to the British who prefer it steaming hot. There are statistics that prove the love of iced tea in America. The Tea Association of the U.S.A Inc. has revealed that an estimated 80% of the tea consumed in the country is iced. That’s quite a big number and therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they have a whole month dedicated to celebrating the goodness of iced teas. June 10th is the National Iced Tea Day.


Iced tea became popular during a fair

It was a very hot summer day back in the 1904s at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. Many people were flocking in to view the newly constructed buildings that contributed to the skyline. This only made the heat more unbearable. A smart vendor, Richard Belchynden, who had a stall that sold hot teas, had an epiphany to circulate and cool the tea by passing it through lead pipes that were immersed in ice. The result was a refreshing glass of iced tea which became an instant hit! That particular moment marks the exact point that iced teas became popular in every household, all over the world! Ever since that day, iced tea is known as one of the best, healthy drinks to beat the heat.

Fun Fact- With the surge in iced teas, there was also an increased sale of tall glasses so much so that they were referred to as “iced tea glasses”. At present, however, mason jars with handles seem to be more popular!


Long Island Iced Tea is actually non-alcoholic

The Long Island Iced Tea Corporation is actually a non-alcoholic iced tea company. Due to the popularity of the boozy beverage with the same name, the company has taken action to trademark their label. But do not fret, the ever so popular boozy drink will still be available and there is a chance the company might venture out to make their own boozy version too. Did you also know that the boozy Long Island Iced Tea does not, in fact, contain any tea? Its concoction consists of about 4 different liquors and a splash of Coca Cola which is mixed to simply taste like its name.

Fun Fact- Believe it or not, tea was a well-known ingredient to make cocktails during the 1700s! Tea was mixed in with rum, brandy and or champagne. To date, there are many tea-tails available; a perfect drink if your cocktail hour clashes with tea time.


Tea is good for you

Regardless of how it is served, hot or cold, tea is good for you! It is a great hydrating agent and is approved by the Harvard School of Public Health as one of the best sources of hydration. It is also a great anti-oxidant; it is good for your skin as they reduce premature ageing and further protects it from harmful substances. Green tea is known to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol and thus reduce the risks of heart attack. Apart from its physical benefits, it is also a great destressing agent and thus helps to calm your nerves.

So be it a deadline that is looming over your head or you want to keep your skin hydrated and protected, the answer to your problem is only a glass of tea away!

Explore our exclusive collection of Zesta Ceylon Tea here.

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10 Simmering Facts About Tea

Pouring Tea

Tea has become a quintessential part of most cultures in the world. Here are some interesting facts about tea to read while you sip on your favourite freshly brewed goodness.

The discovery of tea

According to the Chinese legends, tea was discovered by the emperor Shen Nong in 2737 BCE. The discovery was accidental; it is said that while the emperor was boiling water in his garden, a tea leaf had fallen into it. As he was also a herbalist, he was curious. So, he decided to drink the infusion. He proceeded to research the plant and discovered many medicinal properties. Tea was then considered to be a more medicinal concoction rather than a simple beverage.

It is popular

Tea is the second most popular drink in the world; the first being, water. The tea market is worth more than $40 billion. Out of this, the Turkish population contributes to the majority of the tea market, with each Turkish individual consuming an average of seven pounds of tea annually. They also produce about one-fifth of the world’s tea supply. The second-biggest tea consumers are the Irish, whose average consumption is about five pounds per year, per person.

Tea culture differs in every country

One of the most interesting facts about tea is the diversity present in every country.

  • China- The Chinese have a traditional tea ceremony called the Gongfu tea. This is an event that involves the ritualized preparation and presentation of tea.
  • India- The popular variant of tea in India is known as the “masala chai” which includes a mix of spices like cinnamon, ginger and cardamom to the black tea.
  • Malaysia- They are known for their “pulled” teas which involve transferring tea from two mugs back and forth from quite the height! This process helps aerate the tea and form the characteristic foams on the tea.
  • Russia- Tea is traditionally brewed in a samovar, which is a heated metal container. This helps to keep the tea warm for hours.
  • America- Americans love iced teas. In fact, about 85% of the tea sold in the USA are from iced tea.


Different teas have their own brewing time

Most are unaware of this and hence, do not get the optimum flavour of the tea. Herbal and black teas require to be heated at high temperatures for a longer time. The boiling point of water is 212° F. With that reference in mind, the ideal temperatures for black tea is 203° F and the optimum seeping time is 3-5 minutes, while it is 212° F for herbal tea. On the other hand, green and white teas require lesser heat varying from about 176° F to 185 ° F and a seeping time of about 2-3 minutes.

The tea bag was introduced only in the 1900s

Again, this was an incidental finding. A tea importer decided to send samples in little silk bags and instead of taking the tea out, they decided to brew a cup with the whole bag in it. Following this, the practice became popular and instead of silk bags, they were packed in gauze packets. It was convenient and additionally, reduced the wastage of tea.

It is good for health

There are many studies that show innumerable health benefits that are associated with tea. It is said that green and oolong tea helps reduce the risk of cardiac diseases and promotes mental well-being as they are a de-stressing agent. Green tea is also popularly known for its anti-oxidant properties that are great for the skin

Sri Lanka is well known for its tea

Sri Lanka is one of the tea producing countries amidst Turkey, Iran, Japan, India and China. Tea is one of the main sources of foreign exchange in Sri Lanka. There are three main types of tea cultivation; high-grown, mid-grown and low-grown. All types of tea are available in the country. But they are most famous for their high-quality tea as the cool temperatures, rainfall and humidity in the highlands provide an optimum environment for tea manufacturers like Zesta.

Green tea and black tea come from the same plant

Camellia sinensis is the name of the plant from which most tea is produced. The types of tea are a result of varying methods of how the leaves are processed. Black tea is the most oxidized while white tea is the least oxidized.

Explore our exclusive collection of Zesta Ceylon Tea here.

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Where to Find Zesta Tea in Sri Lanka

Zesta Ceylon Tea

Zesta Tea Cup, Hatton
A warm cup of Zesta tea, while you’re overlooking the island’s mountains, is one of the best ways to enjoy Ceylon tea. When you’re in Hatton, Sri Lanka, look for the large yellow Zesta tea cup and you’ll be sipping tea in no time. The onsite boutique located on the A7 Avissawella-Hatton-Nuwara Eliya Highway means you can even buy your favourite flavour of tea.

Galle Fort, Galle
Galle Fort is steeped in history dating back to 1588 when the country was under the rule of the Portuguese, Dutch and British. While you’re strolling along the cobble-stoned pathways, you’ll find a little Zesta boutique selling a range of the brand’s most exotic flavoured teas on Small Cross Street in Galle.

Liberty Plaza, Colombo
The Zesta Gift Tea Boutique located on the ground floor of the Liberty Plaza Shopping Complex offers a variety of premium estate teas from Dambulla, Uva and Nuwara Eliya. Perfect for personal use or gifts, the tea is sold in foil, wood, reed and staple-free packaging. The shopping plaza is located on R.A.De Mel Mawatha, Colombo.

Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayaka
Jetting off so soon? Before you depart, head over to the Zesta Gift Tea Boutique and get some Ceylon tea. This boutique displays the best of estate teas from Nuwara Eliya, Uva and Dambulla. Tea is sold in wooden, reed, foil and other packaging. The outlet at the airport was designed to cater to travellers who were in a rush or looking for some last-minute souvenirs.

If you missed any of these boutiques, you can get your favourite cuppa delivered to your doorstep. Browse through a wide range of Zesta Ceylon Teas here:

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What’s So Special About Sri Lankan Tea?

Sri Lankan Tea

Around the world, Ceylon tea has become a household name and a trademark name for high-quality tea. Even after independence in 1970, the demand for Ceylon tea continued to grow, until the island became the largest exporter of tea.


Tea was initially first discovered in China, approximately 5,000 years ago by Emperor Shen Nung. In 1824, the first tea bush was planted in Ceylon (the former name for Sri Lanka). It wasn’t until the turn of the 19th century, that tea was became popular around the world, especially Ceylon tea.

Ceylon Tea

Ceylon tea is famed for its outstanding quality and superior, unparalleled taste and variety of tea. According to the 2017 EU Surveillance Report, Ceylon tea was marked as the cleanest tea in the market with regard to the pesticides and other chemicals usually found in tea. In 1997 and 1999, ISO declared Ceylon tea as the cleanest as well when it came to pesticide residue. The island was also the first to achieve the status of being “Ozone Friendly Tea” by the Montreal Protocol Treaty.

The Lion Logo

The legal branding of ‘Ceylon Tea’ is denoted by the iconic Lion logo, which is also represented in the national flag of the country. Any tea that is grown and manufactured in Sri Lanka has to adhere to stringent standards of quality that are set out by the Sri Lanka Tea Board. Any tea marked with the Lion logo represents quality tea that is Sri Lankan, i.e. it’s not mixed with tea from anywhere else in
the world. Any tea with the lion logo should also be packed in Sri Lanka before being exported or distributed.

Tea Types

There are five areas where tea is grown in Sri Lanka, each yielding a different flavour and taste of tea. Tea originated from the Camellia Sinensis plant, but it’s the weather, soil and elevation of the tea plantation that brings about this change in flavour and taste.

Ceylon black tea is world renowned and the most popular in the market. Tea leaves are plucked by the skilled hands of tea-pluckers, where only two leaves and the bud is nipped off. Once the leaves are collected, they are then left to wither, before being rolled, fermented, dried and finally sifted. Once the sifting process is complete, they are separated into different grades of tea. Each grade of black tea has different colours and intensities.

Green tea is the second most popular type of Ceylon tea. Once plucked from the same Camellia Sinensis bush, the leaves are withered, heated and then rolled, before being dried and sifted. To make green tea, the process of fermentation is skipped.

White tea is a special and exclusive type of Ceylon tea and quite possibly the most expensive due to its rarity. White tea is often referred to as Silver Tips. To make white tea, only the buds from the tea plant are plucked at dawn. They are hand rolled individually and not fermented. White tea is light in colour and subtle when compared to Ceylon black tea, and is packed with more antioxidants than the other two types of tea, thus making it one of the healthiest beverages.

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Tea and Health

Tea Ingredients

Tea is an infusion of fresh leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. The beverage is known to be the most consumed in the world, after water. Over the years, tea drinkers have heard the health benefits and drawbacks of drinking tea. But can tea actually improve your health or is it one big myth?

The roots of tea

Tea was first discovered in China by the emperor and herbalist, Shen Nong; in 2737 B.C when a few leaves from the Camellia sinensis bush floated into his cup of hot water. The herbalist tasted this new infusion and thus, the era of tea began! Tea then began to spread rapidly throughout the western world, where traders would illegally sell tea to the highest bidder. It was only much later when tea began to grow in countries like Sri Lanka that China lost its monopoly over the industry.

Varieties of tea

There are 4 main varieties of tea and each of them have health benefits. Blackwhitegreen and oolong teas all stem from the Camellia sinensis plant. The only difference is how each of them are processed. The process refers to the oxidation of tea and by exposing the leaves to air, tea artisans can create different aromas and flavours from it. Tea that is less oxidized has a gentle and lighter aroma and taste such as oolong tea, while tea that is more heavily oxidized will have a dark red/brown tone such as black tea. White and green tea is not oxidized and have a light, pale yellow colour. It should also be noted that herbal teas are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant, but rather are a combination of several other ingredients such as seeds, flowers, roots and other herbs such as CinnamonChamomile etc.

Ceylon tea

Sri Lanka, known for its iconic Ceylon tea is famed for its rich tastes and aromas and comes in black, white and green varieties. Ceylon tea in comparison to tea found in other countries are often characterized by its unique Dimbula tea character and hints of citrus. Ceylon green tea has a stronger flavour than other green teas, while Ceylon white tea is loved by tea lovers from around the world as it has undertones of honey. Tea is grown around the year on the island and has thus become the second largest country that produces tea. Another unique feature of Ceylon tea is the fact that so much variety is produced on an island that is geographically so small. Ceylon tea is rich in minerals, antioxidants, vitamins A, B1, B6 and C.

Black tea

Black tea and your heart

Black tea is known to be packed with antioxidants, particularly Ceylon black tea, which improves cardiovascular health. The high amount of antioxidants in Ceylon black tea will not only improve your heart’s health, but will also help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The presence of flavonoids aid in limiting cardiovascular diseases and preventing heart attacks. Ceylon black tea contains an amount of potassium that’s crucial to your heart’s health as it relaxes the built up tension in the arteries and blood vessels, which in turn helps to maintain healthy levels of your heart and reduce the strain on it. Having a cup of Ceylon tea at the start of your day, followed by fruits that are rich in potassium, like bananas, can be highly beneficial to your heart’s long term health. However, do keep in mind that drinking black tea isn’t going to solve any cardiovascular disease, and it only acts as an aid.

Black tea and your immune system

Black tea boosts your immune system. The tannins present in black tea, which are a group of organic molecules present in plants, will help in protecting and preventing viruses like a cold and flu. Ceylon tea can help improve the body’s response time to fight foreign agents and pathogens and keep off any illness. The antioxidants in Ceylon tea also help in reducing oxidative stress. Black tea is packed with vitamins and essential minerals to maintain your body’s health levels. Studies conducted throughout the years have shown that the tannins present in black tea help fight certain viruses, hepatitis and dysentery.

Black tea and cancer

It is a common statement that black tea helps in preventing various forms of cancer. Black tea is only one of the many things that aid in preventing cancerous cells from developing, and not the sole prevention for cancer. It has been stated that the compound present in black tea which helps to prevent the onset of cancer is known as TF-2, which causes apoptosis of cancer cells, and helps to stop cancer cells from growing. Ceylon black tea aids in preventing damage to the cells caused by free radicals; which have the potential to age your skin’s cells and lower the body’s defence system thereby bringing about the growth of tumorous cells. Though not clearly confirmed, the consumption of black tea plays a role in preventing breast cancer, stomach and prostate cancer.

Black tea and beauty

Black tea has been used to improve the skin by nourishing it with vitamins B2, C and E, minerals such as zinc, potassium and magnesium and with the essential polyphenols and tannins. The caffeine along with some chemical components can aid in preventing oral viruses which could develop into skin infections. Black tea has also been known to reduce the signs of premature aging. Directly applying black tea bags beneath your eyes can reduce dark circles. In addition, the caffeine and high level of antioxidants present in black tea is wondrous for your hair health and its growth.  By adding black tea to your hair care routine, it can add shine to your hair. However, keep in mind that excessive caffeine might stunt your hair growth.

Green tea

Ceylon green tea has high levels of antioxidants as the teas are not fermented or oxidized, however in comparison to Black tea, the health benefits of Green tea are marginally different.

Green tea and weight loss

A common misconception is that green tea will make you lose weight. It is important to debunk this myth, as green tea only aids in removing water weight and not fat, and helps increase the body’s metabolism. The benefit of drinking green tea for the sole reason of losing weight can be very small, when compared to other methods such as regular exercise and healthy eating habits. Green tea sometimes acts as an appetite blocker and prevents the consumer from having a healthy appetite.

Green tea and memory

According to a recently published research article by Psychopharmacology, green tea has been said to enhance the cognitive functions of the brain, and can aid in the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders like dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society have also stated that significant properties of green tea helps in reducing the risk of contracting the disease.

Green tea and oral health

The regular consumption of tea has been said to improve oral and dental health. According to a study carried out in 2016, drinking green tea in particular, will aid in protecting against gum disease and cavities. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidants found in green tea will promote gum health and reduce the risk or oral cancers.

White tea

White tea is derived from the same tea plant, except it is only the buds used and during the processing, the tea is not oxidized or rolled, which gives it a lighter colour and a milder taste, compared to black tea.

White tea and mental heath

Thanks to the large number of strong antioxidants found in white tea, it is known to help protect your brain cells from damage, thereby protecting the brain from mental illnesses such as depression or Alzheimer’s disease.

White tea fights bacteria

The anti-bacterial chemicals found in white tea will also promote your physical health while protecting your body against any illness or infections.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is semi-fermented and is made by withering the tea leaves and then leaving them out to dry under direct, intense sunlight. Once dried, the leaves are then rolled in to clumps and dried for a longer time. Oolong tea is light in colour with a mild taste.

Oolong tea and diabetes

Recent studies have shown that drinking oolong tea, which is packed with antioxidants and high water content helps to maintain your blood – sugar levels, thereby preventing problems such as diabetes.

Oolong tea and oral hygiene

Oolong tea has also known to solve and aid in preventing numerous dental issues such as plaque build-up, cavities, etc. According to research, rinsing your mouth with oolong tea will help protect it from excessive plaque.

Despite the different health benefits attributed to the different teas, all types of tea in general are known to be beneficial to one’s health as the difference in the teas are to do with the manufacturing process and not necessarily the tea plant itself.

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A 150 Year Love Affair: The Story of Ceylon Tea

Tea leaves in Plantation

For 150 years since 1987, the world has been drinking Ceylon tea. From Sri Lanka to England, then to Europe, America, and the rest of the world, it has been filling the cups and hearts of generations. From the days of James Taylor’s first home-made brew to your cup of Zesta tea today, it seems that everything has changed except for the taste of Ceylon tea.

Rewind to the Beginning!

It was February 1852 when the 18-year-old Scotsman first set his foot on the plantation hills in the centre of Ceylon. The young man was James Taylor, surrounded by coffee plants as far as he could see. At that time, he couldn’t have guessed he would become loved and successful as the pioneer of a massive industry that is yet to start.

As the story goes, Taylor was both hard-working and very lucky. Soon after he arrived at the Loolecondera plantation, he was entrusted with its management. Later on, he was sent to India where he learnt about growing tea. At the same time, in Ceylon, coffee crops across plantations were slowly dying of blight, including his own. For Taylor, it was a blessing in disguise. The troublesome crops gave him an opportunity to grow tea on his plantations instead.

In 1867, he planted the first seeds of tea on his plantation. His decision, still celebrated today, proved to be a smart one and his fascination for tea grew further. He began manufacturing tea at his home, rolling it by hand and firing on clay pots. Later, he built the first tea factory and, even more impressively, constructed the tea producing machines by himself – based on what he read and learnt, and a fair deal of experiments. Taylor was admired by the locals, workers, and fellow coffee planters who followed his steps to tea production, one by one.

But, since the days of Taylor much has happened. The world has fought wars, conquered dictators; we have seen men step foot on the moon, and invented ways of communicating that a man planting the first tea seeds in Sri Lanka’s hill country couldn’t imagine. Still, some things have always stayed the same.

Picked by hand, following the same procedure that Taylor once introduced, Zesta tea is proud to be part of the exciting journey of Ceylon tea – the tea that changed a nation and conquered the world. Cheers!

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Tea Plantation

Commitment to the wellbeing of our employees and their families and to sustainable living practices are inclusive of Zesta’s core values as a brand. We have implemented programs that have a positive impact on our employees, as we understand it is essential that all members of a business benefit, for a company to succeed with integrity.

Our community-based initiatives have helped ensure:

  • 0 maternal and infant mortality
  • 100% institutional births,
  • 100% immunisation of all children of associates and
  • 100% primary education for all children
  • 90 Child Development Centres in our estates with over 2,600 children
  • Sanitation facilities for over 9,000 families

Vocational Training Centre for the physically challenged

Located on the Kenilworth Estate the Centre was established in 1998 and won an Asian CSR Leadership Award for its dedicated work.

Environmental Protection and Sustainability Practices

Protecting the environment with Sustainability Practices is core to our business values as we understand the importance of giving back as much as we take. We have taken a number of measures that ensure the protection and preservation of the environment.

Energy Management

We invested in a briquetting machine, which uses tea waste, paddy husks, and sawdust to produce briquettes, the usage of which results in lower net carbon emissions, as part of our integrated energy management approach. For our integrated waste management system, we produce compost from bio-degradable waste to fertilise crops, among several other measures.
Water Conservation & Biodiversity Preservation

As part of our work towards water conservation, we launched a series of initiatives such as rainwater harvesting and improved soil water retention programmes. To protect the biodiversity on our estates, we embarked on a study of habitats within selected estates. We are also working towards the maintenance of buffer zones along water bodies

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Rainforest Alliance Certified Plantations

Tea Plantation in Sri Lanka

All 17 plantations under Watawala Plantations, have obtained certification from the Rainforest Alliance, thereby demonstrating compliance with rigorous global standards relating to the wellbeing of associates, their families and the environment. Some of Zesta’s most popular teas are sourced from these plantations that have voluntarily adopted environmental and social best practices. Watawala Plantations PLC is part of Watawala Tea Ceylon Ltd of which Zesta is the flagship tea brand.

The certification is given to organisation that satisfy the stringent conditions of environment, by eco-system, wildlife, soil and water conservation, community relations by good working conditions for workers, fair treatment and occupational health and safety and through economic aspects such as integrated crop and waste management.

The Rainforest Alliance Accreditation guarantees that our estates meet global sustainability standards such as improved conditions for workers and relationships with local communities and reduced operational and reputational risk. It also helps reaffirm our strong emphasis on sustainable and ethical business practices.  Watawala plantations is already compliant with several other global standards as well, such as the Ethical Tea Partnership and Fair Trade. Local requirements are also met through the Sri Lanka Standards Institution – Sri Lanka Tea Board and the Central Environment Authority.

Watawala Plantations ensures the well-being of its associates through initiatives such as the maintenance of 90 Child Development Centres in our estates while also providing sanitation facilities for over 10,000 families.

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Tea Manufacturing Process

Tea Manufacturing Process

An art that needs a lot of heart

The tea manufacturing process is an intricate one that begins with the plucking of good leaf – two leaves and a bud and results in the final tea leaf that you see. Ceylon tea is manufactured predominantly using the orthodox tea manufacturing process that has been practised for over a century.


Although the following steps ensure the systematic manufacture of tea, the skill of the teamaker is crucial, as it is he who decides the exact timing, level and extent to which each step is executed, based on his experience and what kind of tea he finally wants. This is a process that comes with practice, knowledge and experience and cannot be merely replicated by anyone.
The teamaker’s role is therefore a vital one.

1. Plucking

Expert tea pickers pluck only the fresh leaf – consisting of the bud and the leaves below it – which is the key to ensuring a tea that is rich in flavour and character.

Purpose: To pick two leaves and bud of fresh tea
How it is done: Tea pickers handpick the tea leaves from the bushes

2. Withering

The plucked tea leaves are brought to the factory where they are put into large withering troughs which fan hot air to reduce the moisture content of the tea leaf. This ensures the leaf becomes flaccid. This is referred to as ‘physical wither’. There are also important chemical changes that take place during this time such as the breakdown of molecules to smaller units which increase amino acids and flavour compounds, the partial breakdown of walls between cells (cell wall permeability) which is important for the subsequent stages of manufacture. In order to ensure this ‘chemical wither’ takes place adequately, the plucked leaves are withered for a minimum of 6 hours.

Purpose: To reduce the moisture content of the plucked leaf
How it is done: In withering troughs with hot or ambient air fanning the leaves

3. Rolling

The purpose of rolling is primarily to break up the leaf cells or compartments and to mix up the chemical components of the leaves with the enzymes. Various types of rollers are used to achieve this objective. The first roll is often very gentle and known as the ‘pre-conditioning roll’ . The main action of the pre-conditioning roll has been found to be the gentle expression of the leaf juice on to the surface of the twisted particles. These juices dry up on the surface of the particles to contribute to the blackness of tea. Subsequent rolling is programmed to achieve a thorough breakdown of the leaf cells. A considerable amount of heat is generated by friction during the rolling process, but care must be exercised to ensure that temperature does not exceed 35ºC (95ºF) because undesirable chemical and enzyme reactions could occur at higher temperatures.

Purpose: To break up the leaf cells & mix up the chemical components of the leaf.
How it is done: In a Roller which applies pressure on the leaf in stages, using a rolling motion.

4. Fermentation/Oxidisation

Once the leaf is sifted through the Roll Breaker, it is spread out on an even surface and left to allow oxidisation or what is referred to as fermentation. The process of fermentation represents a series of complex chemical reactions which begin at the moment when the leaf is broken in the roller. The breaking up of cells which causes the mixing up of the enzymes with the other chemical compounds within the cell results in a number of reactions; the most important being the oxidation of polyphenols. An additional reaction that occurs during fermentation is the formation of some
flavour compounds.

Purpose: To allow the macerated leaf to oxidise or ‘ferment’ which is where important chemical reactions take place.
How it is done: In a Roller which applies pressure on the leaf in stages, using a rolling motion.

5. Firing/Drying

The process of firing removes most of the leaf moisture and stops fermentation by destroying the enzymes. Further, the flavour of the tea is ‘balanced’ during firing because some of the lesser desirable low boiling compounds are removed thus accentuating the presence of more useful higher boiling compounds.

Purpose: To stop the fermentation and chemical reactions in the tea leaves.
How it is done: The fermented leaves are passed through the dryer which generates high heat.

6. Sorting & Grading

The fired tea leaves are sorted into particle sizes by sending them through sifters that sift them through different meshes. This helps to categorise the teas into the different grades – Dust, Pekoe, BOP etc.

Purpose: To sort the tea leaves into the desired grades.
How it is done: by sending the tea leaves through different sifters and mesh sizes.

7. Tasting & Assessing

The made tea is then tasted and assessed by the Teamaker and expert tasters, to ensure it meets all quality standards in terms of leaf appearance, aroma, cup colour and character of the tea.

Purpose: To assess the quality, taste & character of the tea.
How it is done: By tasting the brewed tea, assessing the brewed tea leaf and the colour of the liquor.
Explore our exclusive collection of Zesta Ceylon Tea here.
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The Story of How Camellia Met Shen Nong – the History of Ceylon Tea

Ceylon Tea

“Tea is a mystery without knowing its history.”

What is tea?

Tea is a herb derived and extracted from the Camellia plant. After water, it’s known to be the second most consumed drink in the entire world. The most popular plant in Sri Lanka is the Camellia sinensis and Camellia assamica plant.

The birth of tea

The birth of tea takes place in China, 2737 B.C., when a mythical Chinese emperor and herbalist claimed to have discovered tea after a leaf from the Camellia plant fell into his pot of boiling water. As a herbalist, he tested the infusion and liked it, giving way to years and years of tea production.

Shen Nong translates to “God Farmer” and is recognised as a deity in Chinese religion. He is believed to have introduced the Chinese to use of herbal drugs and plant-based medicine to cure ailments and illnesses. He is also believed to have introduced the Chinese people into the practice of agriculture by inventing the plough, axe, hoe, irrigation and dug wells.

According to legend, in his role as a patron of herbs, Shen Nong resembled a man with a translucent stomach, which helped him to see the effects of the herbal plants he ingested. It is believed that he had eaten over hundreds of different plants while noting down the effects it had on his body, which was used as a vehicle for researching the medicinal properties of each plant.

Tea became so valuable in China, that at one point it was used in place of coins.

Since the accidental discovery of tea, the herbal beverage became deeply rooted in Chinese culture and eventually moved to Japan during the 6th century. Kia, the Chinese word for tea was introduced to the western world approximately 400 years ago.

Britain and the western world

At the turn of the 17th century, Dutch and Portuguese sailors introduced Britain and Holland to tea following rich trade relations with China. The tea was sold at auctions at high prices, and was considered to be quite popular amongst the wealthy aristocrats of society. However, many believed that the tea was smuggled into the country at the time, as the official tea trade in Britain only began in 1664, that too, weighing only 2 pounds 2 ounces, which was used for the sole purpose of presenting it to the king.

Tea became a symbol of a person’s high status and was one of the sole reasons for some inventions. For example, in order to be able to provide shipments of tea to the west from China, they developed fast sailing boats, like ‘Clipper’, which reduced the time it took for a ship to sail from China to Europe. Having been endorsed by the royal family to ensure there was a continuous supply of tea, The East India Trading Company (also known as the British East India Company) monopolised the tea market and imported tea leaves to Britain. Many historians believe that it was the marriage of Charles II to a Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, which was a turning point in the history of tea in Britain, as she was said to have been a tea addict and requested for a continuous supply of tea to be brought in.  Henceforth, the beverage achieved a royal status as a ‘fashionable beverage’, first at court and then amongst the wealthy society.

By the 18th century, tea became a common household product as the imports expanded which resulted in a rapid decrease in its price. By the 1720s, black tea became more popular than green tea, and British tea drinkers began adding sugar and milk to their brew. The popularity of tea grew even further, paving its way and dominating the markets, when the coffee plantations in Ceylon were destroyed by a fungus.

The invention of black tea

The Chinese mainly focused on producing and drinking green tea, however, as the demand of tea to the western world increased, the Chinese discovered that tea can be kept longer if preserved well with a special kind of fermentation process. This brought about the iconic black tea, which managed to keep the aroma and flavour much longer than green tea.

The invention of the tea bag

In 1908, Thomas Sullivan, a tea merchant from New York is credited with accidentally inventing the tea bag.  Initially, the tea was packed in white silken bags for the purpose of sending tea samples to his customers, who eventually began making tea while it was in the bags. Hence, the trend and invention of tea bags began! The tea bag revolution resulted in a price reduction of tea as it was more convenient to not just sell tea, but also drink tea, as compared to the brewing with special utensils.

Tea and health

The first discussion on the health benefits of tea and whether it had any effect to tea drinkers began in the 18th century, when it started gaining popularity. Wealthy philanthropists worried that excessive tea drinking would make the working class weak and depressed. This carried on well into the 19th century when a newer generation of philanthropists realised that tea served as the ideal beverage for their temperance movement. They saw it a fitting substitute for alcohol, thus ending the debate on the bad effects of tea on the body.

Tea in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, or rather it’s former name, Ceylon, didn’t produce tea until the 19th century when the island was under British rule.

Pre-tea – Cinnamon

Cinnamon became the first recognized crop of the island that gained government sponsorship during the Dutch rule. Cinnamon plantations were established in Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo and Maradana in 9067. Frederick North, the British governor at the time prohibited the ownership of private cinnamon plantations, which enabled him to secure a cinnamon monopoly for the East India Company. However, by 1833, due to an economic recession, the cinnamon production deteriorated, making it unprofitable.

Pre tea – Coffee

By the time the economy disrupted the production and need for cinnamon from Ceylon, the locals had already begun harvesting and cultivating coffee.  Recognizing its potential, coffee became the next big thing for Ceylon. However, this was short-lived, as around the 1870s, a fungal disease spread across the coffee plantations and destroyed all the crops, marking the end of the era for the island and its production of coffee beans.

The era of Ceylon Tea

The British smuggled the first tea plant and rooted it in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya in 1824. Almost 50 years later, James Taylor, recognized as the Father of Tea in Sri Lanka, began a tea plantation in the Loolecondera estate in Kandy, which marked the birth of the iconic Ceylon tea. It has believed that James Taylor was the mastermind in the technique of plucking just the two leaves and bud. 10 years after the establishment of the plantation, James Taylor built and operated a tea factory in the estate and saw to the production of the first Ceylon tea. Ceylon shipped its first supply of tea in 1873 to London.

Towards the end of the 1880s, all coffee plantations and coffee stores were converted to tea and tea factories, which also required tea processing technology to develop fast in order to meet the demand for tea.

Since then, the unwavering supply and demand of tea flourished in Sri Lanka and the export of tea is one of the country’s main sources of foreign exchange. The process of tea cultivation has developed into a scientific, highly skilled and mechanised business, making Sri Lanka one of the largest exporters of tea, comprising of various flavours and fragrances.

What makes Ceylon tea so special?

Many say that the reason Ceylon tea is so special is because of its unique flavour and aroma and because it has been carefully selected and picked by skilled local women, and not harvested by machines. By adapting James Taylor’s plucking technique, i.e. two leaves and a bud, the flavour and fragrance was made to stay preserved until brewed. Tea grown in Sri Lanka can be classified into 3 elevations, Low Grown, Mid Grown and High Grown; which are based on the tea estate’s altitude over sea level. These three elevations produce a diverse variety of tea which is not found anywhere else in the world in such a small geographic location. Ceylon black tea is one the country’s main specialities and has a crisp citrus aroma. Ceylon green tea made mainly from Assamese seed stock. The green tea cultivated in Sri Lanka has a fuller body, is more pungent and malty with a nutty flavour. Sri Lanka produces a very small quantity of green tea, most of which is exported to the markets of Middle East and North Africa. Ceylon white tip, commonly referred to as “silver tips” is an exclusive range of tea that is grown, harvest and rolled carefully by hand, with the leaves sun dried. The tea has a light liquoring with hints of honey and pine and a light golden-copper infusion.

Seasonal Teas

Ceylon has two seasons for tea – the Dimbula season in March, April and the Uva season in July, August. During these seasons the weather conditions present hot, sunny days and cool, dry nights which cause the tea bush to go through stress and concentrate its flavour in its leaves. These teas produce a taste character that is not found during the rest of the year. It is this special seasonal character that also made Ceylon tea famous around the world.