|Sri Lanka's Mid-Grown Teas
A Small Country With A Big Tea Attitude
|About fifty-five miles off the southeastern tip of India lies the small pear-shaped
tropical island of Sri Lanka. After seizing control of the island in 1815, the British
brought the first tea plants to what was then called Ceylon, but was renamed
Sri Lanka after gaining independence in 1948.
|But it wasn't until the 1870's
that tea became the domin-
ant crop, following the destruction of the is-
land's entire coffee crop, blighted by coffee-
rust disease (Hemileia vastatrix).
The great tea plantations, some still in exist-
ence today, were built by determined hard
working and entrepreneurial Scotsmen, and
many were named after their homeland,
such as St. Michaels, St. Andrews, Dunedin,
Still in existence today, Kenilworth is one of
Sri Lanka's oldest tea estates. Located
halfway up the Central Highlands at
approximately 2,000 feet it's considered a
|medium or mid-grown area. Mid-grown teas account for about 16% of Sri Lanka's total annual
Established by a hard-working Scot by the name of James Taylor
in 1867, Kenilworth is located near Kandy, not far from
Polonnaruwa, the ancient capital of Ceylon. With some basic
knowledge about tea he'd acquired while working in India,
Taylor started experimenting with black tea, making small
batches on the veranda of his bungalow. With success in these
early test batches, the first tea factories were then built.
From these meager beginnings, Ceylon's tea industry quickly grew. The first Ceylon tea auctions
were held in Colombo, the capital of Ceylon in 1883, by a company called Mssrs. Sommerville and
Today, nearly 6,000 tons of tea pass through
those same auctions every week, making
Colombo the world's largest tea auction
During a ten year period from 1990 to 2000,
exports of Ceylon tea increased from
211,604 tons to 283,451 tons ten years
later, an increase of 34% growth.
Mid-grown or medium grown teas such as
Kenilworth, located in the district of Kandy,
are medium bodied, brisk, and asser-
tive, yet mellow, with a rich flavor and
color. They are truly in the middle
ground as at 2,000 feet it's not as hot and humid as the low-grown areas, but still
warmer and more moist than the high-grown teas and region.
Mid-grown teas from this region peak in the spring when
the monsoons are on the other half of the island dumping
copious amounts of rain (between 45"-70" per year).
With the tropical climate and monsoon rains, the tea
bushes grow year round. This means there is no first or
second flush as is the norm, but rather the tea bushes
flush with new growth all year.
Following harvesting of Kenilworth mid-grown tea the processing continues with the
leaves getting a medium wither. This differs from India's Assam teas which receive a
light withering and their Darjeeling teas which receive a hard wither.
To bruise the leaves and start the oxidation process an Orthodox rolling machine is used
but at a faster pace then usual and for a lengthier period - two hours, longer than other
Ceylon teas are usually given.
Next the leaves are loaded onto trays which circulate around
the room on a moving belt for another two hours-another
unusual step when making Ceylon black teas. Finally, when
the leaves are oxidized 100%, they are oven dried at a hott-
er temperature than for high-grown teas.
The end result after this intense rolling, oxidation, and firing is a medium-bodied mellow
tea with baked flavors, that is one of Sri Lanka's most famous teas from one of its oldest
and most famous estates.
A few miles from the district of Kandy, in Hantane, is the
Ceylon Tea Museum which opened in January 2002. Not
far away is the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, both a
must see if you are interested in learning more about
tea, and you are visiting in that area.
Ceylon teas are often called the "World's Best Fruity Black
Teas." Even though it's a small island, Sri Lanka has a diverse climate and geography,
|For more information or to learn more about tea, visit our other pages:
What are "low-grown teas" and where are they from?
What are tana and jikagise, and what are they used for?
What is CTC tea?
Which region of China is home to the world's
oldest known tree?
When did tea first arrive in Japan?
Where is Ceylon black tea grown?
Which country's teas are known as
"the cup that cheers," and why?
What is shincha tea?
What type of tea is grown in Argentina?
In what three states in the U.S. is tea grown?
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|thus the low-grown, mid-grown, and high-grown designations. No matter which area the tea is grown in, the
weather and geography lend each individual tea its unique characteristic flavors and aromas.
Low-grown teas are of good quality and add a brisk richness to blends, mid-grown teas have a greater richness, are
clear, brisk, fruity teas with good color in the cup, and high-grown teas are the best of the lot. They are what made
Ceylon teas famous, with powerful intense flavors and beautiful deep rose gold colored infusions. So, no matter
which of the three you choose to drink, you really can't go wrong. Enjoy.
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