Ceylon Tea grown in Uva
Uva is Sri Lanka’s most remote province. Though not far from Kandy or Nuwara Eliya as the crow flies, access to its provincial capital, Badulla, is only possible over steep, winding mountain roads. To get there from Colombo, one has to drive inland, then skirt nearly the entire southern half of the island’s central massif before turning north and ascending into the hills. Access from Sri Lanka’s other major urban centres, most of which lie on the coast, is equally difficult. In early British times a journey from Colombo to Badulla was a full-fledged expedition, involving beasts of burden, native bearers, nights under canvas and shooting wild animals ‘for the pot’. The whole operation might last several days. The single railway line that connects Colombo with the hill country reached Badulla only in 1924
The unique character of Uva tea is recognized and acknowledged all over the world. It was with tea grown and manufactured on his Uva estates that Sir Thomas Lipton, the great Victorian magnate, first persuaded Americans to take up the tea-drinking habit. The mellow, smooth taste of Uva tea, once known, is easily distinguished from that of any other.
The Uva region produces a leaf that is more blackened by withering than that of any other district. The range of teas produced is wide, with a full range of whole and small-leaf grades as well as CTC varieties. During the July-September eastern quality season, the dessicated monsoon wind or kacchan disrupts normal photosynthesis in the tea plant, while the hot days and cold nights bring about chemical changes that improve the ‘nose’ and flavour. The manufacturing process must be adapted to take full advantage of these changes, becoming on the whole slightly briefer. It results in tea of a pungent, slightly mentholated character, radically different from that produced at any other time of year.
Estates in the Uva region also produce a substantial amount of green tea from Assamese stock. These teas are produced mainly in the region of Idalgashinna.