History of Ceylon Tea
In 1824 a tea plant was brought to Ceylon by the British from China and was planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya for non-commercial purposes. Further experimental tea plants were brought from Assam and Calcutta in India to Peradeniya in 1839 through the East India Company and over the years that followed. In 1839 the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce was also established followed by the Planters’ Association of Ceylon in 1854. In 1867, James Taylor marked the birth of the tea industry in Ceylon by starting a tea plantation in Loolecondera estate in Kandy in 1867. He began the tea plantation on an estate of just 19 acres (76,890 m2). In 1872 he started a fully equipped tea factory in the same Loolecondera estate and that year the first sale of Loolecondra tea was made in Kandy. In 1873, the first shipment of Ceylon tea, a consignment of some 23 lb (10 kg), arrived in London.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle remarked on the establishment of the tea plantations, “…the tea fields of Ceylon are as true a monument to courage as is the lion at Waterloo”.
Soon enough plantations surrounding Loolecondera such as Hope, Rookwood and Mooloya situated to the east and Le Vallon and Stellenberg to the south began transforming into tea plantations and were amongst the first tea estates to be established on the island.
Tea production in Ceylon increased dramatically in the 1880s and by 1888 the area under cultivation exceeded that of coffee, growing to nearly 400,000 acres (1,619 km2) in 1899. By the 1960s the total tea production and exports exceeded 200,000 metric tons (220,462 short tons) and 200,000 hectares (772 sq mi), and by 1965 Sri Lanka became the world’s largest tea exporter for the first time.
By 1996, Sri Lanka’s tea production had exceeded 250,000 metric tons (275,578 short tons), growing to over 300,000 metric tons (330,693 short tons) by the year 2000.
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