The Complete Guide To Ceylon (Sri Lankan) Tea

Ceylon tea is a very popular black tea produced in Sri Lanka. Served both iced and warm, the scope of Ceylon may come as a surprise to some. And while recognised for it’s bold flavour, the taste can vary based on where it’s grown. 

Rich in antioxidants, Ceylon tea has been known to improve heart health and blood sugar control. It has even been linked to aid in weight loss. 

That shouldn’t be your main reason for drinking Ceylon, though. Your main reason should be the taste! 

Below is are a few answers to the questions you might have concerning the alluring Ceylon tea. 

Where does Ceylon tea come from?

Referred to as the “pearl of the Indian ocean” thanks to its shape and location, Sri Lanka was named Ceylon when it operated as a colony for the British Empire. Due to its specific geographical and climatic conditions, it became a perfect zone for growing tea. 

Back in 1824 the British purchased their first tea plant from China and re-planted it in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kandy, a city in Sri Lanka. In 1986, James Taylor planted tea across 19 acres in Loolecondera Estate in Kandy as the country was experiencing a coffee drought and needed a replacement. 

Thanks to Taylor’s efforts in making tea as delicious a product as possible, the Sri Lankans multiplied the tea plantations. By 1899, Taylor’s meager 19 acres had grown to almost 400,000 acres. 

Before long, Ceylon Tea was the tea of the town, gaining global attention. It sold record numbers, even after the British left Sri Lanka. That same demand continues to thrive today.

Is Ceylon tea black tea?

Certain harvesters in Sri Lanka are venturing out into other teas but most Ceylon teas remain black teas. Altogether, there are seven regions producing tea in Sri Lanka. Ceylon teas are grown at three different altitudes: high grown (above 4,000 feet), medium grown (between 2,000 and 4,000 feet), and low grown (up to 2,000 feet).

Ceylon teas, like a lot of teas, are made from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The leaves, however, are instantly recognisable for their long and thin appearance. 

Is Ceylon tea always black tea?

No, Ceylon can come in other teas besides black, though it is most known for its black tea form. Green tea, for example, is a popular Ceylon tea. The process of making it is different from black tea, as the leaves are unfermented to keep their antioxidant notes. 

Ceylon also comes in white tea form, though it’s a lot more expensive thanks to its rareness. White tea is also the only tea that is handmade, rolled individually. Thanks to its low caffeine and high level of antioxidants, it is one of the healthier hot drinks. 

Can you have milk with Ceylon tea?

This is a common question with more or less every tea in the world.

Ceylon tea’s flavor pairs perfectly with or without milk. It is simply up to you. Adding spices and sweeteners is also known to be fine when drinking Ceylon, making it go great with Chai Lattes or Thai iced teas. 

We will say this, though: be careful to add your milk to a specifically strong black tea. If you can, add warm milk as the cold water will bring down the tea’s heat. 

Don’t feel as if you’re going against any tradition here, not least Sri Lankan tradition: taking your Ceylon with white or brown sugar on top of the milk is a common recipe for the people of that Indian ocean pearl. 

How to drink Ceylon tea

There are a variety of ways you can enjoy Ceylon tea. Not only are they enjoyed hot, but they’re known to be a common choice for iced teas too. Although many believe enhancements are not needed with a “self-drinker” tea like Ceylon, pairing it with milk will be sure to soften any potential bitterness you may not like. 

Brewing Ceylon tea is fairly straightforward. Fill a teapot halfway with hot water to preheat it, then pour the water out. Add one teaspoon of leaves per 8 ounces of water to the teapot, then fill it with boiling water, cover the pot and leave for about 5 minutes. As soon as the leaves are settled at the bottom, agitate the tea a little. The longer the steep, the better the flavor and caffeine content, which leads us nicely to…

Does Ceylon tea have caffeine?

Yes, Ceylon tea does contain caffeine but the amount all depends of the leaves used and the preparation. Tea bags will normally have more caffeine than whole leaves. 

One 8-ounce cup of Ceylon black tea has anywhere from 50 to 90 milligrams of caffeine depending on how long you’ve left it to brew. Ceylon green tea usually has around 35 milligrams per mug while Ceylon white tea can contain as little as 6 milligrams. 

Does Ceylon tea have any side effects?

The side effects are no different from any other tea, really. The caffeine levels may make your anxiety worse or possibly trigger a case of an irregular heartbeat if over-indulged. 

Caffeine could also cause diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in certain people with digestive problems.

When it comes to Ceylon green tea, this can aggravate liver problems. If you find yourself experiencing abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin, and dark urine, please consult your doctor immediately.

Consuming Ceylon tea may also increase the amount of calcium released with urine, which won’t be too big of a problem if you’re taking enough calcium. Like most of the side effects noted, the caffeine content is to blame for this one. As long as you stay below 300 milligrams of caffeine a day, you should be good to go!

Josh Teal

Josh Teal is a freelance writer with wit and verve, powered by copious amounts of tea and coffee. That makes him something of an expert in all things brewing, whether it's for you or for your pets!

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