Advice to buy good tea home during your travel in Sri Lanka
Buying Sri Lankan tea is a very easy job. But to know what you are buying, please read the following guidelines:
Around the year, Sri Lankan women are employed at plantations pluck the leaves best suited for tea production. They pluck tender tea leaves using their index and middle fingers and collect them in a basket they carry on their backs. Leaves, shoots, flowers and buds are all greatly valued in the picking process. The best leaves are glossy on the upper face but dull on the reverse. The younger the leaf, the tastier is the tea. Thus, the young leaves and shoots are highly sought after.
The flowers, white with a golden pistil, are used for their heady scent and their aesthetic qualities. The terminal buds (called “tips” in Sri Lanka) are covered with a fine white down (called “pakho” in Chinese meaning hair of the infant) and used in the Pekoe variety.
Sri Lankan Tea Classification
Criteria for classification of tea include treatment, time of harvest of the leaves, quality of leaf and type of preparation. The old Chinese system classifies tea on basis of colour – white, green, yellow or red. However, Sri Lanka almost exclusively produces fermented black teas and so the Chinese system does not apply.
The grading of Sri Lankan teas is based on the type of collection and the taste depends on the degree of fermentation and variation in the manufacturing process. The most robust teas are made from broken leaves (labelled “B”), while Pekoe (“P”) indicates that the leaves used were picked from around the bud. “O”, short for Orange, was used by Dutch merchants in honour of the royals from Nassau, as these leaves produce a regal golden hue when steeped in water.
Aside from the use of tips, fine rolling of the leaves can produce a more refined taste. This is the case for the most highly priced teas.
Classification and cost also depends on the time of harvest and area of production. To ensure freshness of the tea, all manufacturing and processing units are located close to plantations. If you are buying Sri Lankan tea abroad, remember that blending and addition of flavours may have been done later, after export from Sri Lanka.