Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world, overtaken only by water. What’s even more impressive is that the rate at which people are drinking tea is continually increasing. In 2016 in the United States alone, imports had increased by 400 percent since 1990,1 which means that more people are enjoying tea and the benefits it brings.
To keep up with global demand, some countries are highly focused on growing tea leaves as a large part of their overall economy. China, for example, is the world’s largest producer of green tea, producing 1.5 million tons from 2015 to 2017. Kenya, on the other hand, is the largest exporter of black tea in the world.2
Interestingly, Sri Lanka, an island nation off the coast of India, is another of the world’s top tea-producing countries. The country is well-known for their Ceylon tea, which is a unique tea grown only in their country, helping set themselves apart from bigger producers.3
What Is Ceylon Tea and What Makes It Unique?
Ceylon tea takes its name from Ceylon, which is the name of Sri Lanka before it was given independence from British rule in 1972.4 Seeds from the original tea plant were brought into the island in 1824. At first, they were planted with no commercial purposes in mind because cinnamon was the crop supported by the government. After an economic crisis that dwindled demand for the spice, farmers turned to coffee, but this venture was not successful either. As a result, the country opted to try growing tea.
James Taylor, a Scotsman with experience in tea cultivation, created the process for growing tea in Sri Lanka and, by 1872, successfully sent his first shipment to London.5 The industry has grown throughout the island. There are seven regional Ceylon teas, all based on the altitude of the region where they’re grown:6
Nuwara Eliya — Located on the center of the island, west of Uva and north of the town of Dambulla, Nuwara Eliya is a mountainous region with the highest elevation among all tea producers in the country, producing tea filled with floral fragrance and a light, brisk flavor.
Dimbula — Situated between Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains, Dimbula is grown at an altitude of about 4,000, although it has great changes in elevation and climate, depending on elevation. Most teas produced here have a mellow flavor with a golden-orange hue.
Uva — This is a windy region that weathers both the northeast and southwest monsoons, and which produces a tea that has an exotic, aromatic flavor.
Kandy — The tea produced in this region is described as “mid-grown” because the cultivation altitude does not exceed 4,265 feet, and its harvests’ flavors vary depending on whether they are exposed to monsoon winds. Mostly described as flavorsome, this tea has a bright infusion with a coppery tone, as well as a full-bodied flavor.
Ruhuna — The lower-elevation Ruhuna district is classified as “low-grown,” with a diverse geology ranging from coastal plains to the edge of the Sinharaja Rain Forest. Its specialty is black tea with a full flavor.
Uda Pussellawa — Close to Nuwara Eliya, this district has heavy rainfall that produces a tea often compared to its neighbor, but is darker with a pinkish tinge and a stronger, tangier taste.
Sabaragamuwa — The biggest tea-producing district in Sri Lanka, Sabaragamuwa is known for its aromatic tea that has a hint of caramel.
Potential Benefits of Ceylon Tea
Ceylon tea comes in two forms — black tea or green tea. Black tea is made by fermenting the leaves, and is more popular. Green tea, on the other hand, is unfermented and is known for its high antioxidant levels.7,8 Either way, published research has shown that tea may help:
Promote healthy weight — Ceylon tea is low in calories, making it a beneficial drink for those who are monitoring their caloric consumption.9
Boost your immune system — Ceylon tea contains various antioxidants that may help fight free radicals throughout your body. This allows your immune system to focus on doing its job, which is to ward off pathogenic microbes.10
Protect your heart — A study published in Nutrition Reviews indicates that consumption of either black or green tea may help reduce blood pressure, especially for those who are prehypertensive and hypertensive.11
Reduce your risk of cancer — Polyphenols are a special type of antioxidant found in tea.12 Research has shown that drinking green tea may reduce your risk of cancer related to the digestive system.13
Maintain healthy skin — A 2017 study notes that green tea possesses protective effects ultraviolet irradiation-induced skin aging.14
Manage diabetes — Drinking Ceylon tea may help regulate blood sugar levels, which may benefit diabetics,15 especially when consumed before performing moderate-intensity exercises.16
Nutrition Facts and Caffeine Content of Ceylon Tea
Ceylon tea is widely praised for its high polyphenol content.17 Polyphenols are essentially compounds found in natural plant food sources known for their antioxidant properties. Tea is commonly cited as a primary source, but they are also found in organic chocolate, certain fruits and vegetables, as well as extra virgin olive oil. It is these polyphenols that make tea so highly regarded.
Aside from antioxidants, Ceylon tea is also known for containing caffeine, much like tea made in other countries. A 7-ounce cup of Ceylon black tea contains 58 milligrams of caffeine,18 while green tea usually has only half that amount.19 White tea, on the other hand, can contain caffeine anywhere from 6 to 75 milligrams depending on where it was made.20
These amounts are generally safe for most adults, since the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) found that 400 milligrams of caffeine21 per day is not linked to an increase of long-term health risks.
How to Prepare and Store Ceylon Tea Properly
Making Ceylon tea starts with high-quality ingredients grown, manufactured and packed entirely in Sri Lanka using the best practices available. Whichever type you choose, the preparation procedure is similar. Just boil filtered water and let the tea leaves steep in a teacup for two to six minutes.22
Storing your Ceylon tea properly can help you enjoy it until your stocks run out before the expiry date. Remember to place it in a clean, airtight container so your tea’s quality is not affected. Also, do not mix it with pungent items as it may affect the taste.23
Common Side Effects of Ceylon Tea
The side effects of drinking Ceylon tea are generally similar to most teas. For example, drinking too much black tea can cause a range of problems from mild to severe, such as:24
If you develop any of the issues listed above, visit a doctor immediately to receive treatment. Furthermore, stop taking the drink to prevent endangering your health.
Since there is conflicting data on the safety of drinking caffeinated beverages,25,26 pregnant women should drink only moderate amounts of Ceylon tea. For that matter, they should limit consumption of any caffeinated drinks to quantities of less than 300 milligrams per day, as the caffeine may impact the health of their unborn child. Research has shown that caffeine easily passes through the placenta27 and directly into the fetus, and does not provide any health benefits at all to the fetus.
There is a concern, however, that some studies have shown consuming high quantities of caffeine may pose hazards, such as:
- Possible increased risk of miscarriage28
- Low birth weight and smaller head circumference29
- Caffeine withdrawal in the infant30
- Increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)31
Whichever Ceylon Tea You Prefer, You Will Most Likely Enjoy It
Most people will certainly enjoy Ceylon tea for its flavor, aroma and health benefits. Take your time in exploring which variety you like, but make sure that it comes from high-quality ingredients grown using certified organic standards, so that you can be sure to reap its potential health effects.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ceylon Tea
Q: Where does Ceylon tea come from?
A: Ceylon tea is essentially a type of tea made from Sri Lanka. The name comes from “Ceylon,” which is the official name of the country before its change to the current one in 1972.32
Q: What does Ceylon tea taste like?
A: The taste of Ceylon tea depends on where the leaves were grown. Products made in Nuwara Eliya, for example, are known for their fragrant flavor, while tea made in the Kandy district is known for its full-bodied, strong flavor.33
Q: What is Ceylon tea good for?
A: Various studies show that drinking Ceylon tea may promote healthy weight, as well as lower your risk of cancer, boost skin health and promote healthy blood sugar levels.
Note: When buying tea of any kind, make sure that it’s organic and grown in a pristine environment. The Camellia sinensis plant in particular is very efficient in absorbing lead, fluoride and other heavy metals and pesticides from the soil, which can then be taken up into the leaves. To avoid ingesting these dangerous toxins, a clean growing environment is essential, so that you can be sure you’re ingesting only pure, high-quality tea.