Believe it or not, the fascinating story of Ceylon Tea starts with coffee. Let's go back to the early 1820s, just five years after the British crown took control of Kandy, the last indigenous state in Ceylon. The rest of the island had already been under British rule for over 20 years. The British thought it was crucial to have Ceylon as part of their empire because it was important for their interests in India and the Far East. But it cost a lot of money to keep a military presence and the necessary infrastructure in place. They needed to find a way for the colony to pay for itself and the soldiers stationed there.
Around 1824, they began experimenting with growing coffee. The fifth governor of Ceylon, Edward Barnes, saw an opportunity in coffee to solve the colony's financial problems. They discovered that coffee plants were growing naturally in the central hills of Ceylon, and Barnes decided to support large- scale coffee cultivation. They sold land in the central hills for a very low price, invested money in researching and experimenting with coffee growing, and gave incentives and support to the coffee farmers and traders. Barnes also made sure there were good roads connecting the coffee plantations to the towns, especially the important route from Kandy to Colombo, so that the coffee could be transported and sold in England.
Despite some problems in the late 1840s, the coffee industry continued to grow. By the mid-1870s, Ceylon became the largest producer of coffee in the world. The money made from coffee transformed the colony into a prosperous and modern showcase of British power. They built railways that went through the coffee-covered hills, and roads that reached the interior. The city of Colombo had gas- powered streetlights, and its port was developed with new docks and a protective barrier. The government and administration were efficient, but the people of Ceylon didn't have much say in how things were run.
Unfortunately, this success didn't last long. In 1869, a new plant disease called coffee rust appeared on a plantation in Madulsima. It spread quickly and within about ten years, it destroyed the entire coffee industry in Ceylon.

However, amidst the chaos and despair, visionary individuals seized a golden chance in the form of a different elixir: tea. The lush slopes that were once adorned with coffee plants underwent a remarkable transformation as tea bushes took their place, propelling Sri Lanka onto the global stage as a formidable force in the tea trade. Presently, Sri Lanka stands tall as a renowned purveyor of exquisite teas, celebrated as the home of Ceylon tea. Its tantalizing flavors and captivating aromas have captivated tea enthusiasts worldwide, serving as a testament to the indomitable spirit and adaptability of the Sri Lankan people, who ingeniously turned adversity into an extraordinary opportunity.
Barnes left his position in 1831, but by then, coffee was a big industry in Ceylon. The coffee farms spread across the country, especially in the central hills. However, in 1838, there was a major setback. The coffee industry in Jamaica, another big producer, collapsed because of the end of slavery. This created a big opportunity for Ceylon's coffee trade, and they expanded further into the previously untouched hill areas.
Timeline of Ceylon tea
James Taylor arrived in Ceylon in 1852, settling down at the Loolecondera Estate, Galaha. He begins a 19-acre tea plantation on the Loolecondera Estate in 1867, laying the foundation for what would become Sri Lanka’s largest export industry for over a century.

In 1872, a fully equipped tea factory began operating on the Loolecondera Estate.

In 1873, Ceylon Tea made its international debut when twenty-three pounds of tea produced by James
Taylor reached London.
During the 1880s, tea production in Sri Lanka grew rapidly with planters from all over the hill country visiting Loolecondera to learn the basics of growing and manufacturing tea. By the late 1880s, almost all the coffee plantations had been converted to tea as it was seen as a more lucrative alternative.

With the development of technologies such as the Sirocco tea dryer in 1877 and the tea-rolling machine in 1880, commercial tea production was now viable.

In 1883, with the backing of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, the first of many public Colombo tea auctions was held on the property of Somerville & Co.

In 1884, the Central Tea Factory was built on the Fairyland Estate (Pedro) in Nuwara Eliya.
In 1891, Ceylon Tea was sold at the London tea auctions at an astonishing price of LKR 36.15 per lb.

In 1892, James Taylor, the pioneer of the tea industry in Ceylon, died at the age of 57.

In 1894, the Colombo Tea Traders Association was founded, followed by the formation of the Colombo Tea Brokers’ Association in 1896.
This period witnessed a significant increase in production. By 1899, nearly 400,000 acres of land was already under tea cultivation.
1915 was a historic year as Mr. Thomas Amarasuriya was appointed as the first ever Sri Lankan Chairman of the Planters’ Association.
The Tea Research Institute was set up in 1925 to improve production techniques and maximize yields. As a result, by the end of this period, Sri Lanka was producing more than 100,000 metric tons of tea, mainly for export.
In 1932, the Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board was established.
Higher standards were prescribed to prohibit the export of inferior quality teas.

The world’s largest tea bush which yielded four pounds of tea leaves in a day was found in Ceylon in 1934.

In 1935, Ceylon became a founding member of the International Tea Market Expansion Board (ITMEB).
In 1940, the Tea Research Institute made a breakthrough in the control of the leaf eating Tea Tortrix Caterpillar. This was done by intentionally spreading a parasite, Macrocentrus homonae, introduced from Java.

In 1941, M/s Pieris & Abeywardena, the first Ceylonese Tea brokerage firm was set up.

In 1944, the Ceylon Estate Employers’ Federation was founded.
In 1951, Export Duty was levied on tea.

In 1955, the cultivation of the first clonal tea fields began. This is a method of controlling plant breeding to produce the best strains of tea.
The State Plantations Corporation was established in 1958.

In 1959, an Ad Valorem Tax was imposed on teas sold at the Colombo auctions.

The very first Instant Tea plant was set up by Halssen & Lyon of Germany at Agarapathana in 1963.

In 1965, Sri Lanka became the largest exporter of tea in the world!

To celebrate 100 years of Ceylon Tea, the first International Tea Convention was held in 1966.
The Sri Lankan government nationalized and took over privately held tea estates in 1971-72.

In 1976, the Sri Lanka Tea Board, the Janatha Estate Development Board, and the Tea Small Holding Development Authority were established. Export of tea bags too began in this year.
Sri Lanka was the official supplier of tea at the Moscow Summer Olympic Games in 1980 and the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982.

In 1981, Sri Lanka began importing tea for blending and re-exporting.
The production and export of green tea started in 1982.

In 1983, the CTC (Crush, tear and curl) tea processing method was introduced in the country.
To commemorate 125 years of Ceylon Tea, an international convention was held in Colombo in 1992. The Tea Research Board was formed. Export duties and Ad Valorem Taxes were abolished.

In 1993, state-owned tea estates were returned to the private sector.

In 1997, tea exports from Sri Lanka reached 250,000 metric tons.
With the closure of the London Tea Auction in 1998, the trade in Ceylon Tea centered solely on the Colombo Auction.

In 1999, the Sri Lanka Tea Board globally trademarked the Lion logo as an emblem of 100% Pure Ceylon Tea.

The production of Ceylon Tea exceeded 300,000 metric tons in 2000.

2001 saw the setting up of a Tea Museum in an old tea factory in Hanthana, Kandy.

In 2002, the Tea Association of Sri Lanka was formed.
In 2008, the export revenue from Ceylon Tea reached USD 1 billion.

In 2011, the Sri Lanka Tea Board obtained the necessary Geographical Indications (GI) certification for Ceylon Tea, meaning that only tea produced in certified regions of the Island and meeting stringent quality norms could be marketed as ‘Ceylon Tea’. This was an important step in ensuring quality and preventing counterfeiting. Sri Lanka also became the first country to be recognized as a producer of Ozone-friendly tea.

The year 2017 marked the 150th year of Ceylon Tea. Since James Taylor established the first commercial plantation in 1867, the Sri Lankan tea industry has come a long way, now generating over USD 1 billion in export revenue and employing over 1 million citizens.
Why 'Ceylon' tea
Green and lushly fertile, the island republic of Sri Lanka lies in the Bay of Bengal, just below the southeastern tip of India. Sri Lanka was formerly a British crown colony known as Ceylon, a name it kept for nearly a quarter-century after independence.
Long ago, when Sri Lanka was under British rule, something magical happened with tea. It all started with the cultivation and production of tea on this beautiful land. The tea from Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, quickly gained a reputation for being the best in the world. People everywhere knew that if they saw "Ceylon" on a tea tin or packet, it meant they were getting top-quality tea. Tea exports became a major part of the country's economy. In 1965, Sri Lanka became the largest exporter of tea globally.
But then came a time when Sri Lanka changed its name to Sri Lanka, and it created a big problem for the tea industry. "Ceylon" was not just the old name of the country; it was also a well-known brand of tea that people loved. Changing the name would have been a big setback. So, the industry leaders convinced the government to let them keep using the name "Ceylon Tea." They saved this valuable brand that the world knew and loved.
This story shows how the tea industry in Sri Lanka has overcome challenges and kept its heritage alive. When you see "Ceylon Tea," remember that it's a proud part of Sri Lanka's tea legacy, known for its exceptional taste and quality.
Here's the fascinating part: Ceylon Tea cannot be blended with tea from anywhere else in the world. Even if a blend contains 95% Sri Lankan tea, it cannot claim the coveted title. The Lion Logo is exclusively reserved for tea that is packed within the borders of Sri Lanka. Overseas importers and distributors aren't allowed to display this symbol on their packaging, although they can still use the name "Ceylon Tea" if their contents are entirely sourced from Sri Lanka.
Why all these rules? Well, they are meant to help discerning consumers distinguish genuine Ceylon Tea from the multitude of products flooding the global market. Many of these products carry famous international brand names but are blended from teas of various origins. While skilled blenders can create consistent blends regardless of origin, the quality rarely matches that of single-origin teas. These blends may lack the distinctive character and sought-after flavor cherished by tea connoisseurs who appreciate the purity of pure Ceylon Tea.

So, the next time you savor a cup of Ceylon Tea, know that it's more than just a label—it's a testament to the uncompromising dedication to quality and the unique identity of tea that originates from the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.
There is something truly special about the words "Ceylon Tea." It's not just a name, it represents a remarkable journey of tea production and quality. You see, to earn the prestigious distinction of "Ceylon Tea" and proudly bear the iconic Lion Logo, the tea must meet stringent criteria set by the Sri Lanka Tea Board. It's not enough for the tea to be grown and crafted solely in Sri Lanka, it must adhere to strict standards of excellence.
A Legal Definition