History of Ceylon Tea

The history of tea as we know it dates back few hundred years. But the true origin of tea, according to legend dates back to 2737 BC, when the Chinese emperor Shen Nung accidentally discovered the health benefits of tea. However, it was Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) that made tea internationally famous in the 19th and 20th Centuries during the British Rule in the country.

The first tea plant was brought to Ceylon by the British from China. This was planted in the Royal Botanical Garden. Cultivation of tea for commercial purpose, started in 1867 by James Taylor, a British planter who arrived in 1852. In 1866, Taylor visited India, to study how tea is grown in plantations. Following his return, he started a 19-acre tea plantation in Loolecondera estate in 1867. Thus commenced the Commercial cultivation of tea in Sri Lanka. In 1872, Taylor established a fully equipped tea factory in Loolecondera estate. The first shipment of tea from the Loolecondera estate was sent to London Tea Auction in 1875. Plantations surrounding Loolecondera such as Hope, Rookwood and Mooloya soon began cultivating tea and they are considered the oldest plantations in the island.

Soon Ceylon tea gained popularity throughout the world and as sales started soaring internationally, the need for mediating and monitoring the sale of tea was identified. Accordingly, the first public Colombo Auction was held under the supervision of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, at the premises of Somerville & Co. on 30 July, 1883. The Colombo Tea Auction is considered the oldest and single largest tea auction in the world. In 1894 the Ceylon Tea Traders’ Association was formed and today all tea produced and exported from Sri Lanka is handled by the Tea Traders’ Association and Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

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