A Guide to Ceylon Tea Regions
Ceylon tea is a marvel of nature and in that it carries many protective and healing properties in addition to the pleasant taste. It is infinite in the variety of its taste since it grows in many regions, each producing tea that differs from another. Ceylon tea, depending on the elevation at which it is grown, has a unique identity, as a result of the confluence of climate, soil and the production process.
What is Ceylon Tea?
To the world, Sri Lanka is synonymous to Ceylon Tea. The country’s history, culture, economy and tradition for the most part are woven around the deliciousness and uniqueness of Ceylon Tea. Contrary to what many may believe, Ceylon Tea is not a specific type of tea; it is merely tea that is produced in Sri Lanka, which was formerly known as Ceylon.
The exceptionality of Ceylon Tea comes from the love, care and expertise that go into producing it. Sri Lanka, as a nation, respects tradition and age-old practices and the tea industry is one of the finest examples for it. Ceylon Tea is handpicked, and packed fresh at the source to ensure the leaves maintain their natural state. The tea is unblended, which showcase the distinctive quality of the terroir and topography it is grown in. Every step of the production process demands expertise, and artisanal attention, which is one of the reasons as to why Ceylon Tea is one of the finest in the world.
Ceylon Tea Regions
There are six regions that primarily produce tea in Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya and Dimbula produce high grown teas that helped put Sri Lanka on the map. Nuwara Eliya is one of the most popular areas since the tea grown in the hillside of the country have distinct fragrance tones of cypress and are much lighter compared to those grown in other regions. Dimbula, which produces a significant amount of commercial tea is known for its unique orange colour. Uva tea, which is typically categorised as belonging to the mid-grown range is known for its mellow taste. Other mid-grown teas include those that are cultivated in Kandy and Udupussellawa. Low-grown Ceylon teas are renowned for their dark hues and pungent flavours and are manufactured in areas such as Ruhuna.
What is Unique about Ceylon Tea Regions?
Sri Lanka, although is a small island, experiences varied climate. Ceylon Tea is grown in three main elevations: high grown, mid grown and low grown, each producing tea that is different from the other. They discern the appearance, aroma and taste of the tea, which depends on the soil, the influence of rainfall, sunshine, wind and temperature of the region. Climatic changes in the tea growing regions reflect in the character of the tea. Ceylon tea estates have specialised in the art of producing tea that highlights these special traits in the tea leaves.
By nurturing the topography and respecting the artisanal style that goes into producing it, Ceylon tea makers believe that there is no better tea-maker than Mother Nature.
Dilmah Ceylon Tea Estates:
High Grown Teas:
High grown Ceylon teas are found at elevations that are 4000-6000ft above sea level. These teas make up for the majority of Ceylon tea production. High grown teas are more aromatic compared to others, and are lighter in both taste and colour due to the constant cool and windy climate. The monsoons affecting the hillside of Sri Lanka causes different patterns of precipitation, resulting in subtle differences in the tea, even within the same region.
- Park Green Tea Factory: It is one of the six highest factories on the island and the highest factory manufacturing Green Tea. The factory was selected due to availability of the green leaf from the highest elevations in the country.
- Dunkeld Estate: Owned by MJF Tea Gardens, a Dilmah Tea company, the Dunkeld Estate is one of the most picturesque estates in the country. Located on the banks of the Castlereagh reservoir near Ceylon Tea Trails, the estate covers an area of 550 acres of high-grown Ceylon tea.
- Maha Eliya Estate: Encompassing 182 ha of high-grown tea, the Maha Eliya estate was established in 1948 which contains an estate bungalow built in the 1920s. Its rigorous sustainability standards were certified by the Rainforest Alliance and the Ethical Tea Partnership.
- Queensberry Estate: Originally established as a coffee plantation in the 1800s, this estate was one of the first to switch to tea. Queensbury Estate is located in proximity to Dimbula tea gardens.
- Radella Estate: First planted in 1896, Radella Estate is famed for producing high quality green tea across its 242-ha estate, divided into 4 separate divisions. Dessford Estate: Growing lush tea leaves across 333-ha, Dessford Estate produces high-grown black tea on the western slopes of Dimbula valley. It belongs to the agro-climatic district.
- Logie Estate: Categorised under the Dimbula region, Logie Estate produces the finest quality Ceylon tea across 339-ha of lush land, at an elevation of 1220metres.
- Mattekelle Estate: Named after its unique character of a levelled land in Dimbula’s hilly terrain, the Mattekelle Estate is spread across 361-ha at an elevation of 1,372metres producing a high yield. Members of the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka, located on its border, periodically carries out experiments and adaptative trials on the estate.
- Bearwell Estate: Comprising of 4 divisions, Bearwell Estate encompass 423-ha of land, of which tea flourishes across 312-ha, at a high elevation of 1,600 metres and a low of 1,280 metres. The estate is located in the heart of Nuwara Eliya.
- Holyrood Estate: With its factory built in 1922, it’s one of the two factories were accredited the HACCP certification in Sri Lanka. Producing high-quality western high grown tea across 331 ha, it is one of the finest tea growing estates in the world.
- Great Western Estate: Located at the base of the Great Western range, the 6th highest peak in the island, the Great Western Estate is at an elevation of 1448 metres above sea level, producing rich teas.
- Clarendon Estate: Set at an elevation of 1555 metres above sea level, the Clarendon Estate encompasses 192-ha of tea growing land, in an agro-climatic district.
Mid Grown Teas:
Mid grown teas of Sri Lanka are primarily located within and around the district of Kandy, at about 2000ft. They are medium bodied and have a brisk but light taste with a rich flavour. Mid grown teas are known for their bright burgundy colour. The peak season for the growth of these teas is during spring, although unlike with both high and low grown teas, these bushes grow all year round, due to having low monsoon impact.
- Craighead Estate: This stunning estate is bordered by the Gampola Valley, the Dolosbage Hills, Adams Peak and the Pidurangala Mountain Range.
- Imboolpitiya Estate: The land was initially used for coffee and rubber plantations, although it’s presently used for the tea plantation only.
- Kataboola Estate: The estate is surrounded by mountains and acres of forests and makes for beautiful pictures.
- Windsor Forest Estate: It is the 7th tea factory to be officially registered in Sri Lanka.
Low Grown Teas:
Low-grown teas constitute the largest proportion of Ceylon tea and are also the fastest growing among the bunch. The teas grow at an elevation of about 300ft above sea level. The distinct dark colour and strong taste of low grown tea is a result of extreme heat and humidity levels of the region.
- Moragalla Estate: Moragalla is situated in the heart of Galle and is known for manufacturing some of the best low grown teas.
- Nilagama Estate: Nilagama is located between Pelmadulla and Kahawatta in the Ratnapura District; known for producing the finest low country tea; strong with an earthy tone. The area is also famous for its abundance of gemstones like the blue sapphire.
- Endane Estate: The British introduced tea to Endane in 1915 and it has since then advanced into becoming one of the largest estates producing low grown teas.
- New Deniyaya Estate: The estate is situated close to the Sinharaja Rainforest and is high in biodiversity.
- Opata Estate: The estate cultivates rubber, tea, cinnamon as well as coconuts.
Dilmah Single Estate Teas:
Single Estate Tea refers to any tea that is produced exclusively from one estate. The Dilmah Watte series represents the unique and the most desired qualities of selected teas to showcase how the topography, soil, and climate can influence the taste of a tea. The boutique collection comes in four varieties: