Welcome to Sri Lanka, a land where tea is not just a beverage but a way of life. For centuries, the highlands of Sri Lanka have been famous for producing some of the world’s finest teas. From the verdant tea plantations that dot the rolling hills to the charming tea factories that offer a glimpse into the tea-making process, Sri Lanka’s tea culture is a fascinating world waiting to be explored. In this article, we’ll delve into the history of tea production in Sri Lanka and embark on a journey through the picturesque highlands to discover the beauty and complexities of this unique aspect of Sri Lankan culture. So grab a cup of tea and join us on this adventure!

History of Tea in Sri Lanka

Did you know that Sri Lanka’s tea culture is one of the most unique and fascinating things about this beautiful island nation? It all began in the 1860s when a British planter named James Taylor introduced tea cultivation to the highlands of Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon.

The cool and misty climate, combined with the fertile soil, proved to be perfect for growing tea, and before long, the plantations flourished. By the 1890s, tea had become a significant export for Sri Lanka, and the country’s economy became heavily reliant on its tea production.

Sri Lanka even became the world’s largest exporter of tea in 1972, a title it held onto for over two decades! And today, Sri Lanka’s tea plantations are known for producing some of the world’s finest teas, including the famous Ceylon tea, which is famous for its unique flavor and aroma.

So if you’re a tea aficionado or just looking to explore Sri Lanka’s rich culture and history, a trip to the highlands to experience the beauty and intricacies of the country’s tea culture is an absolute must!

The Tea Regions of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s tea industry is a cornerstone of the country’s economy, and the central highlands are where the magic happens. This region’s elevation and climate provide the perfect conditions for growing tea, and it’s divided into three zones, each with its own flavor profile.

First up is the Low Grown region, which spans the southern part of the country and produces bold, robust teas. These teas are often used in blends for tea bags and are a staple for many tea lovers.

Next is the Mid Grown region, located in the central hills. The teas grown here have a medium strength and flavor, making them a popular choice for both tea bags and loose-leaf teas.

Finally, the High Grown region, which covers the highest elevations of the central hills, produces teas with a delicate and nuanced flavor. These teas are highly prized by tea connoisseurs and are often used in premium blends.

Each tea region in Sri Lanka has its own unique microclimate and soil conditions, which influence the flavor profiles of the teas grown in that area. Exploring these regions provides travelers with the opportunity to learn about the tea-making process and sample the various teas produced in each zone.

The Tea-Making Process

In Sri Lanka, the art of tea-making is a time-honored tradition that spans generations. It’s a process that involves meticulous attention to detail and care at every step, resulting in some of the world’s most exquisite teas.

It all starts with the plucking of the young tea leaves, which are carefully handpicked by skilled tea pluckers. Once the leaves are collected, they’re transported to the factory for processing.

At the factory, the leaves go through a series of steps that transform them into the flavorful tea we all know and love. The first step is to wither the leaves, which removes any excess moisture. The leaves are then rolled and fermented to enhance their flavor profile.

After this, the leaves are dried and sorted according to their size and quality. This is a crucial step in ensuring that only the finest teas make it to market. Once the leaves have been sorted, they’re packed into various forms, including tea bags, loose leaf tea, and other forms for local consumption or export.

For visitors to Sri Lanka, a visit to a tea factory or plantation is a must-do activity. It’s a chance to witness firsthand the tea-making process and gain a deeper appreciation for the hard work and skill that goes into producing some of the world’s finest teas.

Tea-Related Experiences and Activities

If you’re a tea lover, a visit to Sri Lanka should be at the top of your bucket list. The country’s tea industry is world-renowned, and there are plenty of ways to experience Sri Lanka’s tea culture firsthand. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Tea plantation tours: Take a guided tour of a tea plantation to witness how tea is grown and harvested. Learn about the different types of tea grown in Sri Lanka, the country’s history of tea production, and the cultural significance of tea.
  • Tea factory visits: Go behind the scenes at a tea factory to see how tea leaves are processed into the final product. Watch as the leaves are withered, rolled, fermented, and dried.
  • Tea tasting sessions: Sri Lanka is famous for its high-quality teas, and you won’t want to miss a chance to sample them. Participate in a tea tasting session to try out the different varieties of tea produced in the country. You’ll get to learn about the different flavor profiles and brewing techniques too.
  • Tea-infused cuisine: If you’re a foodie, you’ll love the tea-infused dishes that Sri Lankan cuisine has to offer. Try out unique dishes like tea-smoked chicken and tea-infused desserts at local restaurants or cooking classes.
  • Tea-themed accommodations: For a truly immersive experience, stay at one of Sri Lanka’s tea-themed accommodations. These hotels and resorts offer tea-inspired experiences like tea ceremonies, tea-infused spa treatments, and even tea-inspired room decor.


Sri Lanka’s tea culture is as rich and refreshing as the tea itself. The emerald green tea plantations spread across the highlands are a testament to the country’s deep-rooted history and identity. To fully embrace this culture, travelers can venture into the tea regions, take a peek into the tea-making process, and bask in a variety of tea-related experiences and activities. Whether it’s a guided tour of the plantations, a tea factory visit, or a tea-tasting session, Sri Lanka’s tea culture has something to offer for everyone. A trip to the tea country promises to be an extraordinary and unforgettable adventure.