Developing tea culture: Do you know your tea?

Friday, 21 December 2012 00:25 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Rashika Fazali

As much as Sri Lankans love their cup of tea, very few people know about the different types of tea produced in the country or how beneficial it can be to our bodies. Sunshine Holdings PLC recently held a tea awareness session at The Tea Cup to showcase the different types of tea available in Sri Lanka and to enlighten society that tea can also be as fun as consuming coffee.

The Tea Club Creator and Restaurant Manager Chandana Kumar explained how a good cup of tea should be made:

Step 1: Choose good tea. If the tea leaves are 85% black, then it is considered good tea.

Step 2: Add two teaspoons of black tea and sugar to a jug.

Step 3: Add ¾ cup of hot water to the jug.

Step 4: Close the jug for 3 minutes.

Step 5: Pour half of the tea and half of the milk to your tea cup.

Making a cup of green tea

Step 1: Add 80% of hot water to the cup.

Step 2: Add a few green tea leaves or one green tea bag

“Though we are a tea paradise, Sri Lankans do not know their tea,” stated Sunshine Tea Marketing Executive Bianca De Silva.

Sunshine Tea New Business and Revenue Generation Manager Denver Outschoorn said, “Anyone would say let’s go to a coffee shop, but no one would say let’s go to a tea shop. We want to change that by putting up small boutiques which will add to the value of tea and make the young generation like tea.”

De Silva also added, “We want to make tea ‘cool’ to the young generation.” She further noted that with the new introduction of ‘tea cocktails’ – a mixture of tea and fruit juice – it would appeal to both the younger and older generations to enjoy tea with a twist.

Sunshine Tea Managing Director Dushy Ratnasingham speaking to the Daily FT mentioned that by setting up tea cafes, experiences, hubs and hangouts spots will help improve the value and the usage of tea by youngsters.

In relation to the Sri Lankan tea industry, he stated that Sri Lanka produces around 300 million kilograms of tea annually. He added that only 10% of the 300 million kilograms of tea is used in the country.  

“We have the best quality of tea in the world, but our Sri Lankans are only familiar with either milk tea or plain tea,” stated Ratnasingham. He added that there are many grades of tea in Sri Lanka and that the best quality tea comes from the ‘dimbula season’ which is loved by people all over the world.

However, Sri Lankans lack the knowledge of tea. “We export to everyone, but our Sri Lankans do not understand tea,” said Ratnasingham. He said that one kilogram of crush tear curl (CTC) tea can produce 800 cups of tea while one kilogram of orthodox tea can produce 400 to 500 cups of tea.

However, Sunshine Tea manufactures around 90% of orthodox tea and 10% of CTC due to the fact that orthodox tea has between 32 to 35 grades of tea while CTC has just six grades. Outschoorn added, “Many countries such as Vietnam have copied our tea. The leaf structure may look the same, but the aroma and the taste are different compared to our tea.”

What makes our tea different to any other tea in the world? Outschoorn revealed the three factors of Ceylon tea – flavour, taste and aroma – is what makes Sri Lankan tea a favourite of all. Sri Lankan tea also comes from three areas: low-country, mid-country and high-country and tea gradually becomes lighter in colour as it reaches to high-country areas.

He added, “Ceylon tea is not banned in any country. We don’t have any chemicals involved and we are said to have the cleanest and purest tea in the world. At the weekly tea auction, we sell around six million kilograms of tea.”

Sunshine Tea International Marketing Manager Nathienial Umesh stated that Sunshine Tea exports 10 million kilograms of tea annually to over 40 countries.

Pix by Daminda Harsha Perera