Tripin 2017 - 2018 - page 85

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For most, the growing of this little leaf is a wondrous
sight to behold, a mesmerizing undulation of shades
of green across the landscape. One of the island’s most
iconic geographical markers and its claim to fame, the
hills of Sri Lanka’s central highlands are etched with it.
Here, lies the heart of tea country.
The year was 1869, when disaster hit the British
Colony of Ceylon. Coffee, the main crop of the island
at the time was struck down with a coffee-rust fungus
destroying vast plantations. Cue James Taylor, the
Scotsmen who planted the destined seeds of a grand
tea empire.
Taylor’s initial experiments and conviction made
him largely responsible for early successes. With
cultivation on the rise, workers were transported
by boat from southern India to work the new tea
plantations. Known as “plantation Tamils” it is their
descendants that work the steep slopes still today.
With a workforce in place, it wasn’t long before
Taylor had a fully equipped factory and in 1873, his
teas began to fetch him handsome prices at the famed
London tea auction. By 1880, production rose from 23
pounds to 81 tons and by 1890, it rose to 22,900 tons.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Holding on to the coveted number one ranking for
black teas over the last century is no fluke. Every step
of preparing the most popular beverage on earth is a
painstaking process. From the nimble fingers of the
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