Tea plays an important role in the culture of the Sinhalese people. Not only do the plantations of this delicious drink design the green landscape of Sri Lanka, but they also mark the day of the inhabitants. Any time is good to sip a cup of tea and there is a variety suitable for every hour of day. Tea was imported to this small island south of India by the British settlers. In 1870 a fungus destroyed the coffee plantations on the island. Sir Thomas Lipton, therefore, decided to put the hills and mountains of Sri Lanka to farming by importing a new product: in less than two decades the central area of the country was used for massive cultivation of tea.
The Sri Lankans drink tea mixed with spices, with milk and lots of sugar. It is often drunk in Thai Kadai, small bars used exclusively for the sale and consumption of tea along with some dishes. The precious drink is also consumed during breaks at work and is grown on plantations mostly by people of Tamil origin. Tea pickers are women, paid by the piece, and forced to work often in very tiring conditions. The tea workers live in small villages near the crops.
The plantations are located between 600 and 2500 meters of altitude, on the hills and slopes of the mountains. Ceylon tea can be High grown, if grown between 1200 and 2500 meters, Middle grown, between 600 and 1200 meters and Low grown, at around 600 meters. Different altitude also affects the color and texture of tea: the first is clear and fragrant, the second more dense, the Low grown is full-bodied and dark.
The regions of Sri Lanka specialized in the cultivation of Ceylon tea are six. The three main are the following:
- Nuwara Eliya: it is a hilly region, renowned for its excellent tea with a fragrant and appetizing taste. It is called "the champagne of Ceylon tea" because of its refinement. Great to be consumed in the afternoon.
- Dambulla: This area is located to the west of the central mountains, about 1250 meters high, an area which is highly affected by monsoon and precipitation. The tea of this area, known as Kenilworth Op, has a rich, full-bodied flavor. Another variety of this area is the Pettiagalla Op, with a sweet flavor and curly leaves.
- Uva: this region east of Dambulla is characterized by the presence of dry winds that give a strong flavor to the tea specialtiy cultivated here, the Aislaby Op, light, fragrant and bright-colored. Delicious to drink in the evening
Other important regions for the cultivation of tea are the Kandy area, where the Kallebocka variety is grown, and the areas of Uda Passewala and Ruhuna, specialized in the productions of Ratnapura, Deniyaya, Matara and Galle tea.