Main Ceylon Tea Growing Regions

Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya

Tea growing in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) was an economy-saving move. As coffee plantations fell victim to a disease called “coffee rust,” plantation owners turned to learning about how to cultivate tea plants (Camellia Sinensis and its varietals). These days, the tea plant of choice is the assamica varietal exclusively.

In my previous article “Darjeeling vs. Ceylon Teas” I mentioned that Sri Lanka had growing regions. Several sources I found stated there were six regions. Others list as many as eleven. The first three listed below are considered the most noteworthy. They abut each other in a tight ball in the southern part of this island nation. Several other regions are getting better known to even casual tea drinkers.

Located in central Sri Lanka just south of Nuwara Eliya and west of Uva regions. One of the first regions to go from coffee to tea production in the 1870s. This region has mountain slopes and a terroir that ranges from 3900 to 5600 feet in elevation, producing teas that range from full-bodied to delicate, with most of them tending toward the mellow side.

A plantation there:

  • Kirkoswald — founded in the 18th century for coffee production, at a high elevation of 4100 feet, about 1700 acres in production of teas (mainly Pekoes with a flowery, malty character)

Nuwara Eliya
Located in central Sri Lanka just west of the Uva region and north of the Dimbulla region, at the highest elevation on the island (over 6500 feet). The terroir results in teas with delicate, floral aromas and a light but brisk flavor that holds up whether hot or chilled, plain or with lemon.

Some plantations there:

  • Pedro – Lovers Leap — Located in the central hills of the region at an elevation of 7000 feet and having just the right combination of rain and sunshine to allow year-round tea growth.
  • Weddenmulle — Located at an elevation of 3280 to 6230 feet, the land has undergone extensive re-engineering which has resulted in a high annual yield. The teas are of consistently high quality and variety.

The best known of the tea regions, located east of Nuwara Eliya and Dimbulla, with a terroir ranging from 3300 to 5600 feet in elevation that produces a few white teas but mainly black teas having sweet, woodsy aroma that are good with milk. They are used in a lot of blends where you see “Ceylon” on the label.

Some plantations there:

  • Adawatte — Established in 1938. Located at 260 feet. Has 663 hectares in production. Factory was rebuilt in 1956 to improve tea quality.
  • Ampittiakande — Overlooks the Sinharajah rainforest. Produces teas, plucked during August and September, that command top prices at auction. The teas have a lightly fruity fragrance and complex flavors.
Tea Plantation in Kandy
Tea Plantation in Kandy

Elevation ranges from 2100 to 4300 feet. Like Dimbulla, this was one of the first regions in Ceylon to start growing tea when the coffee crops were being decimated by disease. The teas are classified as “mid country” and are known for their full body, appealing to those who like a thicker tea liquid with strong flavor.

Some plantations there:

  • Sanquhar — One of the oldest tea plantations there. Produces some of the best green Ceylon teas.
  • Geragama — Located actually near the Kandy region at an elevation of 1500 feet. One of the rainiest spots on the island, it covers 60 hectares and produces up to 6 tons of tea leaves in a single day during the rainy season (May to September).
  • Kenilworth — Named after the famous castle in England and established at the turn of the last century. Located at an elevation of 3500 feet. Tender leaves are plucked after the first monsoon and processed in cooler weather to give the tea its characteristic creamy character with hints of cocoa, spice, tobacco and fruity undertones.

More and more, these teas are being sold as estate teas instead of in blends. Check out a few and see what all the raving is about. Enjoy!

For more on the wide world of tea, visit Tea Time with A.C. Cargill.

6 thoughts on “Main Ceylon Tea Growing Regions

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