Champagne amongst teas

Friday, 11 March 2016 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

In Champagne terminology, the French term “cuvée” refers to the first-pressed and best juice of the grape. On a quiet Sunday in February at the First Serving of Cuvée Craighead Estate at the t-Lounge by Dilmah on Colombo’s Chatham Street it was not Champagne that was being presented but its equivalent in tea. Family Tea company Dilmah is known for its Founder’s persistent defence of quality and tradition in tea, and the Cuvée Craighead Estate – Extra Fine Ceylon Silver Tips, only adds to the evidence in his  dfufavour. 

Handpicked buds from a specific field of tea on Dilmah’s Craighead Estate are handmade, gently finished under filtered sunlight and offered in an undeniably luxurious and sophisticated form. Fittingly presented in champagne flutes, chilled and lightly sparkling, the elegant and complex beverage gives new breadth to its description as tea.  

The Founder’s younger son Dilhan offered the tea to the assembled guests, suggesting a sip, followed by a bite of a fresh Nuwara Eliya Strawberry that was presented with the tea. The first sip is delicious; the palate confirming what the eye cannot believe is tea, but the second more so. After a taste of the lightly sweet and tart strawberry a sip of Cuvée Craighead Estate reveals a complexity in the tea that yields a profusion of lychee, apple, herb and honey notes.  

The Dilmah Family Founder Merrill J. Fernando and sons, Dilhan C. Fernando and Malik J. Fernando – were joined by members of the Leaf & Artisan Society, the media and colleagues. Following Dilhan’s presentation of the artisanal process by which the extraordinary tea is produced, Merrill J. Fernando shared his own devotion to tea: 

“I devoted my life to tea. Dilmah has done much for the Ceylon tea industry. We have revitalised, reinvented tea and made it a global drink. We grow our own tea, the pride of Sri Lanka. Ceylon tea is respected throughout the world, and Dilmah is enhancing that reputation through innovation. Our Cuvée Craighead Estate is an6sdg exceptional white tea, truly a champagne of tea. As it also possesses the goodness of tea, antioxidants and health benefits which champagne does not, I believe it is much better.”  

Dilmah remains committed to tradition in tea making, insisting that the more modern and convenient CTC technique that most of the world has adopted for tea in teabags, is an unacceptable compromise. Merrill J. Fernando fought the extensive adoption of CTC in Sri Lanka and amongst the reasons for his unrelenting emphasis on quality, orthodox tea is the fine single estate Ceylon Silver Tips that was first served to guests on that day.   The t-Lounge by Dilmah was designed and implemented by the Dilmah Family to express the variety in tea, marrying their respect for tradition in tea with contemporary style. At the company’s two Colombo locations, teas are offered hot, chilled, sparkling and in a variety of constantly evolving forms that change monthly.  The fine Silver Tips is produced on Dilmah owned Kahawatte Plantation’s Craighead Estate, on an extent of 60 hectares with annual production of just 600 kg. Sri Lanka produces 5,000- 5,500 kg of Silver Tips annually although the Fine Silver Tips from Craighead Estate is a unique tea. The estate is also responsible for the Silver Tips cultivar that was used to introduce the plant in 1958, and the fields currently used today for this purpose, were enlisted for production in 1976-1986. 

For further information on the Dilmah Real High Tea Challenge, log on to Get more information on the tea-inspired creations on – Pix by Upul Abayasekara