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What is Ceylon Tea?

If you’re still new to the world of tea, you may not have heard of Ceylon tea before. This bright and somewhat bitter brew is one of the best-known types of tea and makes up roughly a quarter of the world’s tea exports. 

Ceylon tea is a black tea that originates from Sri Lanka, which used to be known as Ceylon. Sri Lankan or Ceylon tea is famous for its unique flavors caused by the tea’s specialized growing conditions. Ceylon tea has some nutritional benefits that set it apart from other varieties of tea.  

Ceylon tea is definitely a type of tea you should try if you’ve never been exposed to it before. There are many reasons why this tea is one of the most popular kinds of tea worldwide, but this famous tea is not without controversy. Read on to learn more about what sets Ceylon tea apart. 

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What is Ceylon Tea?

Ceylon tea is the name used to refer to any tea grown in the highlands of Sri Lanka. When the small country was a member of the British Empire, it was known as Ceylon. After its independence from the British Empire in 1948, the Ceylon region came to be known as Sri Lanka.

How Was Ceylon Tea Introduced to the World? 

Like many varieties of tea grown in Southeast Asia, Ceylon tea was introduced through the British Empire. Under the governance of the British East India Company, tea from Ceylon was exported all over the empire and across the Atlantic to America. 

Even after Sri Lanka gained its independence, it was still one of Asia’s most influential tea producers. 

What Growing Conditions Influence Ceylon Tea?

The main thing that gives Ceylon tea its special attributes is the specific microclimate in the Sri Lankan central highlands where the plants are grown. Here are a few of the growing conditions that are responsible for Ceylon’s flavor, color, and body: 

  • Humidity: Tea plants thrive in 70-90% ambient humidity, which means that tea grows best in a rainforest environment.
  • Cool temperatures: While many areas of Southeast Asia are extremely hot, the central highlands of Sri Lanka are cooler than the surrounding lowlands. These cooler temperatures are preferred by camellia sinensis, which is the plant that tea comes from.
  • Large amounts of rainfall: Compared to other crops, tea plants need a ton of rain (roughly a hundred inches during the growing season). It’s difficult to find climates that provide this much moisture. It’s one of the reasons that most of North America does not produce tea although it has territory at the right latitudes to grow it. 

The climate found in Sri Lanka can be found nowhere else in the world. For this reason, Ceylon tastes quite different from any other tea on Earth. 

How is Ceylon Tea Processed? 

Ceylon tea is processed like any other type of black tea, with one major exception: rather than being passed through rollers to be “curled”, Ceylon tea is typically processed as an orthodox tea. This means it is hand harvested and rolled for curing. Because the processing of Ceylon tea is so labor-intensive, this can make it rather expensive compared to other tea varieties. 

what is Sri Lankan tea graphic

What Does Ceylon Tea Taste Like? 

Ceylon tea is often described as having a bold and bracing flavor, with subtle notes of spices, citrus, and chocolate. Like other teas from this part of the world, Ceylon tea is often tempered with sweeteners and milk to make it smoother and more palatable. 

Is Ceylon Tea Black Tea?

Ceylon tea is the name of any tea that comes from Sri Lanka. While most tea sold as Ceylon tea is matured black tea, there is also green, white, and oolong Ceylon tea. 

Special Health Benefits of Ceylon Tea

Black tea in general holds many positive health benefits for people who choose to drink it regularly, but Ceylon tea holds some special advantages compared to other types of tea. Here are a few of the ways that Ceylon tea is good for you

  • Higher levels of potassium: Ceylon tea has been shown to have higher levels of potassium than other types of
  • Larger amounts of antioxidants: Ceylon tea contains higher levels of kaempferol, myricetin, and quercetin compared to other tea varieties. These chemicals are antioxidants that can help prevent various medical disorders from cardiovascular disease to cancer. 

Along with these benefits, Ceylon also offers the traditional benefits of drinking black tea, such as a calmer state of mind and reduced inflammation in the body. If you’re looking for a new tea variety to try, Ceylon is a strong candidate healthwise. 

When Should You Drink Ceylon Tea?

Because of its brisk flavor, Ceylon tea is equally palatable first thing in the morning or the mid-afternoon as a pick-me-up. This tea is not recommended to drink at night since the caffeine in it can interfere with natural sleep patterns if you ingest it before bed. 

How to Serve Ceylon Tea

Ceylon tea can be served either hot with milk and sugar or served over ice. Lemon is also added to help cut some of the bitterness of the tea. Rather than sweets like cookies and petit fours, Ceylon tea is typically served with savory dishes. 

Are There Downsides to Drinking Ceylon Tea?

The only serious drawback to drinking Ceylon tea is that the Sri Lanka tea industry has a long history of worker exploitation. This means that on some tea plantations, workers are forced to harvest and process tea in poor working conditions, for long hours, and little pay. 

The best way to combat the exploitation of workers in the tea industry is to seek out fair trade Ceylon tea. Fair trade certification indicates that the producer of the tea is working in ethical and sustainable ways to help preserve local communities in the region where the tea is grown.

Ceylon Is a Delicious Addition to Your Tea Cabinet

Ceylon may have a reputation for bold flavor, but this Sri Lankan tea is still mellow enough to make it one of the most sought-after teas on the international market. Try brewing up a cup for yourself to see what all the fuss is about!

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what is Ceylon tea graphic showing the tea fields of Sri Lanka