Tea vs. Coffee in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka may not be a massive tea-growing region, at least not on the same order as China, India or Africa, but they actually rank rather high on the list, after those aforementioned areas. Like its neighbor immediately to the West – India – the island is best known for its black tea. It is still known as Ceylon tea, after the nation’s former name, though there have been some not so successful attempts to change this branding over the years.

What’s not necessarily so well-known is that before tea came there in the latter part of the nineteenth century, Sri Lanka was actually a hotbed of coffee production. Until an outbreak of disease damaged the crop and put a serious damper on that sort of thing.

Oddly enough, nowadays there has been some rumbling in the Sri Lankan press about tea consumption there, with various articles suggesting that tea is no longer popular and is under assault by the worldwide rise of coffee culture. Which is nothing new, really, at least not in other nations where they grow and/or drink tea in sizable quantities. In recent weeks, I’ve written about how tea drinking is supposedly under assault by coffee in that great haven of tea culture – Britain – and more recently about similar issues in India.

Ceylon Black Tea - who would desert such loveliness to have coffee instead? (ETS image)
Ceylon Black Tea – who would desert such loveliness to have coffee instead? (ETS image)

In one Sri Lankan news report not so long ago, the headline itself came right out and stated, Tea No Longer Popular in the Land of Ceylon Tea, Say Experts. A member of the tea industry there complained about the onslaught of coffee, which supposedly “is even served at funeral houses,” if you can imagine such a thing. According to the expert, who called for more tea houses there, Sri Lankans only drink about ten percent of the tea they grow, in contrast to India and China, which are said to drink as much as 80 percent of their homegrown tea.

A day later a commentary piece in the same Sri Lankan newspaper covered similar territory, this time under the headline, Sri Lankans: Are We Tea or Coffee-drinkers? The brief article suggested that much of the concern over the fate of tea consumption in Sri Lanka was at least a bit overstated. It also pointed out that amount of tea produced vs. the amount consumed in the country had not really changed that much in recent years.

See also:
Main Ceylon Tea Growing Regions
Ceylon Blends
Ceylon Black Tea
Is Ceylon Tea an Aphrodisiac?
Teas of the World: Low-Grown Sri Lankan (Ceylon) Teas
Teas of the World: Mid-Grown Sri Lankan (Ceylon) Teas
Teas of the World: High-Grown Sri Lankan (Ceylon) Teas

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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