Ceylon tea is a particularly prized form of black tea from Sri Lanka. It has a golden color and rich, intense flavor which many tea consumers greatly appreciate, and it is used straight as well as in tea blends. Sri Lanka is one of the largest tea producers in the world, and Ceylon tea can be found all over the world as a result. Particularly fine highland varieties can also get quite costly, as they have a rich taste and strong aroma favored by some consumers.
Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon under colonialism, and the name has stuck for the tea. Tea was first introduced to the country as a crop in 1867, to replace a devastated coffee crop. Tea producers quickly began to produce tea with a unique flavor and color, and Ceylon tea began to experience high demand. The majority of Ceylon tea is grown in the highlands of the country, with lower elevation teas being used as filler in tea blends.
Six regions of Ceylon produce tea: Galle, Ratnapura, Kandy, Dimulla, Uva, and Nuwara Eliya. Ceylon tea is often identified by the region is was grown in, and each area's tea tastes distinctly different, with the best harvests coming in February, March, August, and September. The tea leaves are carefully selected for optimal flavor and meticulously oxidized to make classic black tea. After oxidation, the tea is roasted and prepared for sale at packaging facilities.
Since Ceylon tea is associated with quality, the Sri Lanka Tea Board brands genuine Ceylon tea with a stamp of a lion carrying a sword. This lion logo is only used on teas grown and packed in Sri Lanka, and the teas are also tested for quality to ensure that they adequately represent the tea heritage of Sri Lanka. This marketing measure was undertaken to support a gourmet market for Ceylon tea, which tastes best when brewed in loose-leaf form. Since many consumers prefer teabags for convenience, the Tea Board wanted to increase the appeal of their product with a cohesive brand and a luxury feel.
Many grocery stores and importers stock Ceylon tea, usually as loose-leaf tea. It can also be ordered through specialty importers, or enjoyed in tea blends which combine several varieties of tea, including Ceylon tea. The tea classically brews strong, dark, and flavorful, with complex hints of orange and spice. Like other black teas, Ceylon tea contains caffeine.