Time for Tea *Video*

Sri Lanka, previously known as Ceylon, is one of the world’s largest tea exporters (along with Kenya and India). Tea production accounts for 15% of the country’s GDP and employs more than 1 million people. Tea was introduced to the country by the British planter James Taylor in 1867.

Famous Ceylon tea is grown in Sri Lankan “hill country,” the cooler highlands found in the interior. While visiting, I spent a few days in the British colonial-era town of Nuwara Eliya, home of numerous tea estates and plantations.

Plantation Pickers

While on a tour of the tea factory, I wandered off to check out plantation life. I walked through the tea trails and found women in small groups picking bags of tea that that they carried strapped to their foreheads.

The plantation I visited had 1,400 employees, including 800 women pickers. The pickers were paid a straight salary for an 8-hour work day. If they picked more than the required 16 kilos, they earned a bonus. Needless-to-say, these women were picking up a storm!

Just watch one of the picker’s nimble fingers, separating the young green leaves:

Can’t view the video? Click on this link: Tea Picker in Sri Lanka

Tea Processing

The factory I visited sells between 2,000-2,500 kilos of tea a day. After the young leaves are picked, they’re fan-dried for 14 hours, which drains 45% of the moisture from the leaves. Next, the leaves are placed in an oven to dry for 21 minutes, then sifted to remove the stems.

The tea is then graded into at least 5 different levels, ranging from the heartiest blends of Orange Pekoe to tea dust, which is used in tea bags. After the grading, the tea is packaged and sold at auction in Colombo to the giant tea companies like Twining, Lipton, and Henley.

Medicinal Qualities

Tea is thought to help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; encourage weight loss; lower cholesterol; and bring about mental alertness. Tea is also high in antioxidants. It is, obviously, a miracle drug!

Here’re some of the potential health benefits of tea:

  • Green tea: Green tea’s antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
  • Black tea: Black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
  • White tea: White tea is unfermented. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.

Have a cuppa!

As a fan of all teas, I greatly enjoyed my tasting throughout the Sri Lankan Hill Country, sampling a cuppa here, a cuppa there. In fact, now is probably the perfect time for another cuppa of tea! Like to join me?

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 and is filed under Food & Drink.

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