CEYLON TEA MUSEUM IN SRI LANKA

CEYLON TEA MUSEUM IN SRI LANKA

The origin of Tea was with the Chinese Emperor ShenNung who was boiling water when the leaves from a nearby plant Camellia sinensis plant floated into the pot. The emperor drank the mixture and declared it gave one "vigor of body, contentment of mind, and determination of purpose." Perhaps as a testament to the emperor's assessment, the potion of tea he unwittingly brewed that day, today is second only to water in worldwide consumption!"

Until the 1860’s the main crop produced on the island of Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, was coffee. But in 1869, the coffee-rust fungus, Hemileiavastatrix, killed the majority of the coffee plants and estate owners had to diversify into other crops in order to avoid total ruin. The owners of Loolecondera Estate had been interested in tea since the late 1850’s and in 1866, James Taylor, a recently arrived Scot, was selected to be in charge of the first sowing of tea seeds in 1867, on 19 acres of land. Taylor had acquired some basic knowledge of tea cultivation in North India and made some initial experiments in the manufacture, using his bungalow verandah as the factory and rolling the leaf by hand on tables. The firing of the oxidized leaf was carried out on clay stoves over charcoal fires with the leaf on wire trays. His first teas were sold locally and were declared delicious. By 1872, Taylor had a fully equipped factory, and, in 1873, his first quality teas were sold for a very good price at the London auction. Through his dedication and determination, Taylor was largely responsible for the early success of the tea crop in Ceylon. Between 1873 and 1880, production rose from just 23 pounds to 81.3 tons, and by 1890, to 22,899.8 tons. The first vessel recorded as carrying Ceylon tea to England was the steam-ship ‘Duke Argyll’ in 1877.

The 1884 and 1886 International Expositions held in London introduced the English and foreigners to teas produced in the British Empire. But it was at the 1893 World Fair in Chicago that Ceylon tea made a tremendous hit; no less than one million packets were sold. Finally, at the Paris exposition of 1900, visitors to the Sri Lanka Pavilion discovered replica tea factories and the five o-clock tea that became so fashionable. The promotional policy was so effective that by the end of the 19th century, the world tea was no longer associated with China, but with Ceylon. The island's prosperity sparked covetousness on the part of British companies and London brokers, who wanted to acquire their own plantations and cut out the middlemen. This marked a turning point in the saga of tea; pioneers gave way to merchants whose name or label would soon become more important than the country in which the tea was grown.

The Ceylon Tea Museum at Hantane, three kilometers from Kandy city is served by a motorable road that circles the museum, provides easy access and adequate parking facilities for cars and tourist coaches. The museum consists of four floors. The ground floor and the second-floor exhibit very old items of machinery and the first floor consist of a library and an auditorium with facilities for audiovisual presentations. The third floor is allocated to tea sales outlets, where a selection of Sri Lanka's fine tea is available. The entire top floor is a tea cafe. A panoramic view of the Kandy town surrounded by the beautiful Hunasgiriya, Knuckles Range and the Matale range of hills can be viewed through a telescope mounted on the fourth floor. The grounds surrounding the Tea Museum are landscaped with different varieties of teas. Kandy is a mandatory stop virtually on every tourist's itinerary and the location of the Ceylon Tea Museum at Hantane enhances the attraction of the hill country to visitors. Additionally, its proximity to the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens and Loolecondera estate, where tea was first grown commercially in Sri Lanka makes Hantane the perfect location.