Saying ‘Ceylon Tea’ and clustering all our blends under one umbrella can be unfair when our tiny island offers a world of distinct blends, grown across various parts of the country. When it comes to fine wines, we often talk of the French wine growing districts. Similarly, it is time we acknowledge that Sri Lanka too boasts 7 tea districts scattered over central mountainsides and southern foothills, each offering its own individual character and flavor. To a true connoisseur, the differences are easy, but let’s delve into these districts so that the rest of us can also learn to identify our world class blends.
The most well-known Sri Lankan tea district is Nuwara Eliya, of course. This region is famous for its Orange Pekoe (OP) and Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP) grades. The perfect combination of Nuwara Eliya’s high elevations, low temperatures and mountainous terrain results in an outstanding tea bouquet. The palest of all Ceylon Teas, the Nuwara Eliya blend is golden in hue and comes complete with a gentle, fragrant finish.
Not to be mistaken with its neighboring district Nuwara Eliya, Uda Pussellawa teas are vastly different in blend and tone. Known to come with a dark, rosy colour palate that grows darker with heavy rainfall, these teas taste distinctly stronger than mild Nuwara Eliya blends. Uda Pussellawa teas also carry distinct tangy flavours that can extend to floral notes during an end of year harvest.
Refreshing, mellow teas come from the Dimbula District that sits neatly between Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains. The distinct orange-gold Dimbula teas are light on the palate, owing to the fact that all the region’s estates are located at least 4000 feet above sea level. This region’s teas are also known to have diverse flavours based on the various microclimates they are grown in. In fact, some teas have been known to also carry hints of Cypress or Jasmine in the blends.
Easily the most exotic of Sri Lanka’s finest teas, the Uva district’s teas come with an added hint of magic added into the blend. Exposed to wild monsoon winds from both the northeast and southwest of the island, Uva teas come infused with an unmistakable, one-of-a-kind, flavour and aroma. Easily the mellowest of teas, the Uva blend is all about combining the best of the island in a cup of tea.
Sabaragamuwa sports some of the island’s best fast-harvest, low-grown teas. Being Sri Lanka’s largest district, Sabaragamuwa estates are located at roughly 600m above sea level and span a large area of the land. With hints of red and ranging from dark yellow to dark brown in color, this long leafed tea is a stylish bled. Sabawagamuwa teas are also known to contain a caramel-sweet note that’s gentle and delicious on the taste buds.
Similar to Sabaragamuwa teas, the prized southern tea blends of Ruhuna also fall under the low-grown umbrella as they are cultivated at altitudes below 600 metres. Located between the island’s coastal belt and inland Sinharaja Rainforest, the black teas of Ruhuna are full-flavoured blends. Known to be the choice of our historical King Dutugemunu, having a cup of Ruhuna tea is partaking in your island’s rich and diverse history.