T he tea sector in Sri Lanka has always been a vital component of her economy. It is also the country's largest employer providing employment both directly and indirectly to over one million people. It also contributes a significant amount to Government revenue and to the gross domestic product.
Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka, acclaimed as the best tea in the world has its inherent unique characteristics and reputation running through more than a century. The influence of climatic conditions of its plantation imparts to the product a variety of flavours and aromas, synonymous with quality.
Sri Lanka as the third biggest tea producing country globally, has a production share of 9% in the international sphere, and one of the world's leading exporters with a share of around 19% of the global demand. The total extent of land under tea cultivation has been assessed at approximately 187,309 hectares.Sri Lanka produces tea throughout the year and the growing areas are mainly concentrated in the central highlands and southern inland areas of the island. They are broadly grouped under these headings according to their elevations, with high grown ranging from 1200m upwards, medium grown covering between 600m to 1200m. and low grown from sea level up to 600m.
High grown teas from Sri Lanka are reputed for their taste and aroma. The two types of seasonal tea produced in these areas Dimbula and Nuwara Eliya are much sought after by blenders in tea importing countries.
Uva teas from Eastern Highlands contain unique seasonal characters and are widely used in many quality blends particular in Germany and Japan. The medium grown teas provide a thick coloury variety which are popular in Australia, Europe, Japan and North America.
The teas produced in low grown areas are mainly popular in Western Asia, Middle Eastern countries and CIS countries. Most factories in these areas produced what are known as leafy grade of tea where the tea leaves are well twisted and can grade into long particles.
Sri Lanka mainly produced orthodox teas. In the orthodox process of production, semi dried green shoots are ruptured by rolling achieved from a rotary movement. The rolling process ruptures and twists the leaves. When tea leaves are crushed an oxidation process begins, which is followed by firing and commonly known black tea is produced.