|Like coffee plants, tea likes hot days, cool nights and plenty of rain, and also like coffee, most high quality tea is grown in mountainous regions. During the growing season, tea is harvested every seven days. Only the two tender uppermost leaves and terminal buds are plucked by hand. After this gentle beginning, the leaves are left in a hot room to wither, then put into a machine that rolls the leaves and releases their juices. These juices react with the air (oxidation) giving black teas the color and flavor we love. The tea is then dried in ovens (fired) and graded according to size. Generally the more initials the better the Tea.
Sri Lanka’s finest teas are produced mainly from bushes that grow above 4,000 feet. The bushes grow more slowly in the cooler, mistier climate, and are harder to harvest because of the steep angle of the slopes on which they are planted.
There are six main tea-producing areas. Galle, to the south of the island; Ratnapura, east of the capital Colombo; Kandy, the low region near the ancient royal capital; Nuwara Eliya, the highest area that produces the finest teas; Dimbula, west of the central mountains; and Uva, located east of Dimbula.
The teas produced in each region have their own individual characteristics of flavor, aroma, and color.
Low-grown teas, produced at 1,500 to 1,800 feet, are of good quality and give good color and strength but lack the distinctive flavor and bright fresh taste of the higher-grown teas and are usually used in blending.
Mid-grown teas, grown between 1,800 and 3,500 feet, are rich in flavor and give good color.
High-grown teas, from heights of between 3,500 and 7,500 feet, are the very best that Sti Lanka produces, giving a beautiful golden liquor and an intense powerful flavor As well as the wonderful black teas, some estates also produce silver tip white tea that gives a very pale straw-colored liquor and should be drunk without milk All Sri Lanka’s black teas are best drunk with a little milk.