Sri Lanka is known around the world as the ‘Tea Island’ which could cater to the satisfaction of tea connoisseurs in every corner of the globe. Within the world tea industry, Sri Lanka is the third largest exporter.
However, Sri Lanka is the undisputedly leading player in respect of orthodox black tea to the global community. Black tea can be broadly categorised under orthodox and CTC types. While CTC known through the tea jargon as Cut, Tear and Curl is a comparatively low cost mass production method, orthodox is a high-skill required, labor-intensive and high cost manufacturing process.
Although Ceylon Tea accounts for 6% of the global tea production, the Sri Lanka tea industry focus is not on the volume but the quality and value. All foreign tourists who visit the tea country of Sri Lanka understand the unique difference of Ceylon Tea against competing origins.
When a majority of the tea producing countries are utilizing trendy automation for the plucking process and reducing costs, the passionate Sri Lankans still adopt hand plucking – a highly skilled but rather laborious method.
While many types of tea can be found under the national brand Ceylon Tea thanks to nature’s generosity, the conditions that breathe life into the tea remain both pristine and virgin.
The tea bush thrives on sloping terrain and is grown in Sri Lanka mostly in the central highlands as well as in the southern inland foothills of the rainforest at high, medium and low elevations. This results in a perfect cup of tea to the consumer which is of a superior quality and taste.
The teas produced in the ‘Tea Island’ vary from small leaf to larger particles as well as from light, fragrant cup character to strong, coloury brew. It is not an exaggeration to say that most of the world famous tea brands and blends have been enhanced by a percentage of Ceylon Tea. Sri Lanka produces tea to suit every palate and that has remained the hallmark of the country’s tea industry.
Indeed, the topography, the soil, altitude, climatic changes, the two specific monsoons, and the wind velocity are some of the characteristics which play an important role in the end product. Thus, tea is a product of infinite variety. Ceylon Tea continues to thrive within these parameters and is almost impossible to be substituted by other origins.
The diversity in specialty of its orthodox tea process has been the power and strength of the tea industry in Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya, Uda Pussellawa, Uva, Dimbula, Kandy, Ruhuna and Sabaragamuwa are the prime tea growing regions of Sri Lanka. Over the years, Sri Lanka has earned a reputation as a producer of the finest tea in the world whilst Ceylon Tea is synonymous with quality and taste.
The Ceylon Tea name and seven agro climate regional tea names have been registered as certification marks to prevent misuse of Sri Lankan Teas by overseas packers and add value to the product origin. Sri Lanka Tea Board conducts Ceylon Specialty Estate Tea of the Year Competitions as well as Charity Tea Auctions in order to popularise straight-line garden marks and to recognise quality excellence by tea factories in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is the leading producer country in the world which adds value to its tea prior to exports. A substantial quantity of tea packets and tea bags are exported annually and the share is around 40% from the total volume and 45% from the total revenue. Ceylon Tea is exported in a wide range of packets i.e. box board cartons, foil packs, soft wooden boxes, metal cans, ceramic jars and wooden boxes.
Today, Ceylon Tea reaches close to 160 countries.The Middle East, Gulf and North Africa region still absorbs over 50% of exports from Sri Lanka. The Russian Federation and CIS countries remain as the second most important region for Ceylon Tea which purchases close to 20% of all exports.
The Far East is emerging as another prominent area for Ceylon Teas. China has been identified as the most potential new market which imports over 10 million kilos of Ceylon black tea annually and ranks the seventh position in the buyer’s inventory.
Japan is the other traditional importing country loyal to Ceylon Tea in the Far East region. The latest development is the gradual increase of demand for tea bags from Sri Lanka to the West African region.
Sustainability is not a fashionable catch-phrase among members of Sri Lanka’s tea industry. In recent years, the drive towards sustainable practice in all aspects of the cultivation, manufacture, storage, transportation and distribution of Ceylon Tea has gathered momentum, with new legislation and industry rules being put in place.
Alliances have been forged with international conservation bodies and hundreds of individual initiatives are being practiced on estates and smallholder farms throughout Sri Lanka’s tea-growing districts. Concern for sustainability is not new to the Ceylon tea industry.
An early industry initiative was to prohibit the use of DDT, while the use of wooden tea-chests was abandoned over twenty years ago. Sri Lanka now produces the world’s only ozone-friendly tea, certified under the Montreal Protocol which is widely considered as the most successful environment protection agreement.
This was achieved through an industry-wide effort backed by the Tea Board and Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka while the industry is compatible with ILO, it is a role model for the environmental program of the United Nations and fulfills most of the global millennium goals. The industry is already carbon neutral. Several players in the tea industry have received the United Nations Global Compact Awards which is worthy of emulation.
The Lion Logo trademark for Ceylon Tea captures the legacy and essence of tea grown in Sri Lanka. Inspired by its rich heritage, the symbol of the Lion Logo guarantees that it is 100% pure Ceylon Tea and grown, plucked and packed exclusively in Sri Lanka while conforming to the highest quality standards mandated by the Sri Lanka Tea Board.
Every batch of tea that bears the Ceylon Tea Lion Logo is traceable to its origins, ensuring absolute accountability and transparency with every sip. The tea packets and tea bags bearing the Lion Logo quality mark of Sri Lanka must be mandatorily packed within the country.
Overseas packers cannot use the Lion logo trademark even if the contents are 100% pure Ceylon. Due to the popularity of Ceylon Tea all over the world, the Lion Logo trade mark and the Ceylon Tea name is being violated and replicated by many unscrupulous packers overseas. It is an on-going problem for the Sri Lanka Tea Board as well as the industry brand owners.