Tea (Camellia Sinensis) came to be a principal crop in Sri Lanka in the early 1870s’. Prior to 1870s Sri Lanka’s main crop was coffee and no planter showed much interest in tea. The Pioneer of commercial tea cultivation in Sri Lanka was James Taylor who arrived in Ceylon in 1852 to work in “coffee plantations”. In 1869, a leaf disease destroyed the Island’s coffee plantations and estate owners looked for alternative crops. The 19 acre Loolecondara Estate where Taylor did the first commercial planting of tea became the model for future development of the tea industry in Sri Lanka. Other planters quickly followed Taylor. From 400 hectares in 1875, the Island’s tea extent grew to 120,000 hectares by 1900. Today it covers 200,000 hectares in the highlands and southern low land areas of the country. This pioneer period laid the foundation for the gentle green countryside which is characteristic of the tea growing areas of Sri Lanka today.
The first ever tea auction was conducted on 30th of July 1883, by Mr.William Somerville at the Broking House in Colombo. Five lots of choicest Ceylon Tea were offered. The first lot of 999 pounds, described in the catalogue as” Kaboragalla unsorted” was sold and the rest were unsold. Today Colombo is considered the largest tea auction center in the world.
In 1873, a small package of 23 pounds was exported from Sri Lanka, formally known as Ceylon, to the United Kingdom. In 1886, the quantity had increased to nine million pounds and the estimate for 1890 was forty million. Sri Lanka emerged as the world’s largest tea exporter in 1990, with production increasing after the re-privatization of plantation management. Sri Lanka’s tea production is around 300 million kilograms, with a share of around 22 percent of world tea exports. Around 20 percent of Sri Lanka’s export earnings come from Tea, which also contributes significantly to government revenue and Gross Domestic Product. The tea industry generates 600,000 direct jobs (and many more indirectly) and is Sri Lanka’s largest single employer.
Ceylon Tea Lion Logo which appears on Ceylon tea packs denotes not only the country of origin but also the quality of Ceylon Tea. Sri Lanka Tea Board is the legitimate owner of the Ceylon Tea Lion logo which has been registered in many countries in the world. The usage of Lion Logo is subject to the following conditions: The Lion Logo can be used only on consumer packs of Ceylon tea; The packs should contain 100% pure Ceylon tea; The brands which use the Lion Logo should be packed in Sri Lanka. Overseas Importers/packers are not allowed to use the Lion Logo on their tea packs even if the packs contain pure Ceylon Tea; The brands which use the Lion Logo should conform to the quality standards set out by the Sri Lanka Tea Board. When you next buy your tea look for the Lion Logo on the pack which is your guarantee for quality pure Ceylon tea.