It was a great pleasure and privilege to be part of the Ceylon Tea Night event organised by the Friends of Sri Lanka Association. The Friends of Sri Lanka Association (a non-political organisation) was to set up in 1988 by request of Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, the late Adbul C.S Hameed with the aim to promote the country and encourage friendships between those passionate about Sri Lanka. Every year the association organise various events in and around London, with talks on Sri Lanka’s wildlife, tourism, tea history and much more.
The event was to celebrate the remarkable life and work of Sir James Taylor, a celebrated figure in the history of tea production in Sri Lanka, often referred to as the ‘Father of tea’. Although Taylor’s time in Sri Lanka had a huge significance to the tea industry in general, Sri Lankan economy and western tea drinking habits, he is less known in his native Scotland and not included amongst the great western tea pioneers such as Sir Thomas Lipton.
Angela McCarthy, a professor of Scottish and Irish History and University of Otago and Sir Tom Devine professor at the University of Edinburgh, set out on a unique journey to piece together the life and time of the British Planter’s life in Sri Lanka at the high noon of empire, using archive letters, documents and a visit to the Loolecondera Estate, Kandy.
After the coffee blight, cultivators decided to move across to tea production as an alternative, massively helping to boost the tea trade. It was after this that James Taylor opened a larger tea factory in the Loolecondera estate and later created machinery for rolling the tea leaves, the first of its kind and a real breakthrough in commercial tea production.
We learnt about this and much more from Angela, who has just realised her latest book, ‘Tea and Empire, James Taylor in Victorian Ceylon’, a very interesting read for any tea enthusiast.
After the talk from Angela McCarthy, it was the perfect time to enjoy a selection of The Tea Makers of London's authentically made orthodox Ceylon teas, which are processed the same methods and tools used 150 years ago, with the attendees.
- Orthodox Bogawantala Tea No. 49
- Rare Ceylon Silver Tips No. 50
- Ahinsa Organic Ceylon Black Tea No. 16
- Luxury Ceylon Pekoe Tea No. 20
It was wonderful to see the attendees enthusiastically try each tea on offer. The event brought back nostalgia not only for those Friends of Sri Lanka, who have and long association with the Island nation and the famous cuppa, but for us at The Tea Makers of London who have close links to Ceylon tea industry and the country in general. We’d like to thank the Friends of Sri Lanka Association for arranging and hosting the tea night, and we look forward to the next gathering.