With a background in economics, Pavithri Peiris found her calling in the world of tea by joining the Sri Lanka Tea Board in 2013. Here, she tells us about Ceylon tea and why it has become so popular worldwide.
What makes Ceylon Tea unique?
Although Ceylon tea accounts for 6 percent of global tea production, what’s important is the value not the quantity. Ceylon tea is special for a number of reasons:
Ceylon teas are handpicked to ensure a better selection of green leaves for the manufacture of tea – an expensive and labor-intensive process – which greatly influences the final product quality.
Sri Lanka is a bastion of the original orthodox tea manufacturing process that results in small-batch, labor-intensive production of a wide variety of leaf style or grades and ensure the best flavor.
Ceylon tea is well regulated with a unionized workforce that is governed by a collective labor agreement. Child labor is banned. Workers are provided with a comprehensive selection of facilities, from housing to healthcare.
Growing and producing Ceylon tea is a tradition that has existed for more than 150 years. Every day, around 1.5 million people all over Sri Lanka, from tea pickers to tea tasters, produce some of the finest black teas on Earth. It is a way of life.
Ceylon tea estates are located in pristine environments and are small in size, around 200-400 ha, managed by a team of professionals and a dedicated workforce living on the estate.
Sri Lanka has implemented various measures to comply with environment-related international agreements and protocols (Montreal Protocol). For instance, methyl bromide is not used as a soil fumigant in the tea sector.
Teas are packed in Sri Lanka within two to three weeks of harvesting, thereby preserving the freshness and inherent aroma of the tea. This is in stark contrast to teas in some markets, which can be a few months to a year old when packed.
The seven agro-climatic regional teas, namely Nuwara Eliya, Uva, Uda Pussellawa, Dimbula, Kandy, Ruhuna and Sabaragamuwa, have given Ceylon tea a unique advantage, producing teas of different flavor, aroma, strength and color that are unmatched by any other origin in the world.
The lion logo trademark for Ceylon tea captures the legacy and essence of tea grown in Sri Lanka. Inspired by its rich heritage, the lion logo guarantees that it is 100 percent pure Ceylon tea and grown, plucked and packed exclusively in Sri Lanka while conforming to the highest quality standards mandated by the Sri Lanka Tea Board. Every batch of tea that bears the Ceylon tea lion logo is traceable to its origins, ensuring absolute accountability and transparency with every sip.
Sri Lanka’s tea industry follows stringent quality assurance measures in compliance with MRLs (Maximum Residue Levels) set by the different countries and regions for the agrochemicals used in the tea plantations and in compliance with other international standards, such as ISO standards, Good Agricultural Practices, HACCP, Good Manufacturing Practices, Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, etc.
Does Ceylon tea supply the hospitality market?
Ceylon tea is exported to over 120 countries in both pre-packed and loose tea form. The HORECA segment, which is a booming market around the world, has identified Ceylon tea as one of the most sought-after beverages. Ceylon tea is offered as a straight-line product and sometimes blended with other origin teas.
Furthermore, the diversification of Ceylon tea in forms of orthodox black tea with different leaf styles, CTC teas, green tea, organic teas, bio teas, RTDs, artisanal teas and hand-made teas, are unique offerings for the HORECA segment, tea houses, tea bars tea saloons etc. It should be mentioned that some of the leading and globally recognized Ceylon tea brands are served by major airlines, hotels, restaurants and cafes. Discerning tea consumers around the world look for Ceylon tea to quench their thirst.
What does the future hold for Ceylon tea?
Sri Lanka’s national brand Ceylon Tea is constantly evolving to meet the changing consumer demand by adopting new strategies for the entire supply chain. The Sri Lanka Tea Board always focuses on maintaining the best quality. In this context, constant research and development is key.
Sustainability is a focal point and all industry stakeholders are working toward achieving all the dimensions for a sustainable tea industry while looking after the social well-being of the community and respecting the environment.
The execution of a Global Ceylon tea promotional campaign is in the pipeline, targeting 12 major tea-importing and consuming countries in the world through KOLs advertising, supermarket activations, social media advertising, public relations activities and more. These steps will raise aware of the uniqueness of Ceylon tea and its health and functional benefits, as well as communicate Ceylon tea’s sustainable factors.
Do you have any recommendations for food-tea pairing?
The latest introduction to the Ceylon tea promotional radar is the Tea Master Cup Competition classified under four main categories, namely tea preparation, tea tasting, tea pairing and tea mixology.
Some of the leading Ceylon tea brands have also introduced their own Ceylon tea pairing and mixology programs for the HORECA sector. The major Ceylon tea brand owners run Ceylon tea cafes both in some of the tea-consuming countries and in Sri Lanka, where they offer lovely food pairings.