History of Ceylon Tea

Strange as it may seem, the story of Ceylon Tea begins with coffee. The tale begins in the early 1820s, barely five years after the surrender of Kandy, the last surviving indigenously-ruled state in Ceylon, to the British crown. By then, the rest of the island had already been a British colony for more than a generation. Its possession was considered vital to imperial interests in India and the Far East, but the cost of maintaining the military presence and infrastructure necessary to secure it was prohibitive. Attempts to raise revenue by taxation could not by themselves fill the gap; how to make the colony pay for itself and its garrison was a problem that had troubled successive governors since the first, Frederic North, took office in 1798.

This tenacity is spoken of in plantation legends and can be seen in inscriptions on gravestones of Scots and English pioneer planters - many of whom died prematurely from disease - in Ceylon’s hill country. These bear silent testimony to the harsh conditions in which the tea industry was built and most importantly, to the fearlessness and dedication of the founders of this great industry.;xNLx;;xNLx;The 'History of Ceylon Tea' project is a tribute to those courageous men of whom Conan Doyle spoke, that the memory of their sacrifice and dedication in creating a great and life-giving industry shall not be dimmed with time. The Tea Industry of Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka, is the lifeblood of the country today, providing direct employment to over 500,000 people, and producing for the world a beverage that is healthy, refreshing and delicious. It is an imperative for the future of this industry that we shall not forget the past, and those that made history in creating our tea industry.

1796-02-16 15:25:00

1796 Colombo (under Dutch Rule) surrendered to the British by Capitulation, 16th February

1798-10-12 15:25:00

1798 Ceylon made a Crown Colony, 12th October

1798-12-04 15:25:00

1798-1805 Governor Hon. Frederick North

1805-04-10 15:25:00

1805-1811 Governor Hon. Thomas Maitland

1806-04-10 15:25:00

1806 The Kandyan King constructs the Kandy Lake

1811-03-07 15:25:00

1811-1812 Governor Hon. John Wilson

1812-04-15 15:25:00

1812 Potatoes first successfully cultivated in Ceylon

1812 Potatoes first successfully cultivated in Ceylon by Mr. J. F. Lorenz, Sitting Magistrate, Morowak Korale.

1812-08-06 15:25:00

1812-1820 Governor Hon. Sir Robert Brownrigg

1818-04-15 15:25:00

1818 First cargo of Coconut Oil taken from Ceylon

1818 First cargo of Coconut Oil taken from Ceylon to the United Kingdom by Capt. Boyd, of Aberdeen.

1820-01-11 15:25:00

1820-1822 Acting Governor Hon. Edward Barnes

1822-04-20 15:25:00

1822 Governor Hon. Edward Paget

1822-08-17 15:25:00

1822-1824 Governor Hon. James Campbell

1823-06-11 15:25:00

1823 Kandy Road Tunnel Completed

1824-04-15 15:25:00

1824 First Coffee plantation established in Sinnapitiya, Gampola by George Bird.

1824-07-16 15:25:00

1824-1831 Governor Hon. Sir Edward Barnes

1828-07-16 15:25:00

1828 Nuwara Eliya established as Military Convalescent Station

1831-08-16 15:25:00

1831 The Kandy Road via Kurunegala and Galagedera and that via Kadugannawa is completed

1831-10-15 15:25:00

1831 Governor Hon. John Wilson

1831-11-10 15:25:00

1831-1837 Governor Hon. Robert Wilmot-Horton

1832-02-01 15:25:00

1832 The Kandy Mail Coach – the first Mail Coach in Asia started on 1st February

1833-03-30 15:25:00

1833 The island is divided into five provinces

1834-03-30 15:25:00

1834 The Colombo Observer started

1834 The Colombo Observer started by the Merchants of Colombo with Mr. Winter being the first Editor.

1836-10-25 15:25:00

1836 The Colombo Academy established by Government on 25th October

1837-04-15 15:25:00

1837 Commencement on a systematic scale of Coffee cultivation in the hill-country.

1837-09-13 15:25:00

1837-1841 Governor Hon. James Alexander Stewart-Mackenzie

1837-11-11 15:25:00

1837 First Sugar Plantation opened in Dumbara.

1837-11-18 15:25:00

1837 George Turnour’s translation of the Mahawansa published

1839-03-25 15:25:00

1839 Ceylon Chamber of Commerce ‘organized’ 25th March.

1839-11-11 15:25:00

1839 Dr Wallich, head of Calcutta Botanical Gardens

1839 Dr Wallich, head of Calcutta Botanical Gardens sends to Peradeniya Botanical Gardens seeds of the “recently” discovered indigenous “Assam Tea”. A further batch of seedlings is sent the following year as well.

1840-04-22 06:08:48

1840 First rush into Coffee-planting speculations commenced. The Coffee boom follows.

1841-03-25 15:25:00

1841-1847 Governor Hon. Colin Campbell

1841-04-22 06:08:48

1841 Worms’ Brothers attempt to cultivate the Chinese tea plant on Rothschild Estate

1841 Worms’ Brothers attempt to cultivate the Chinese tea plant on Rothschild Estate (Pussellawa) and Labookellie Estate (Ramboda). A Chinese tea maker is brought in to assist with the manufacture. However, due to the high costs, the project is abandoned.

1842-04-22 06:08:48

1842 A further batch of Assam Tea seedlings are received by the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens

1842 A further batch of Assam Tea seedlings are received by the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. These are sent to Nuwara Eliya to the care of E.F. Gapp who cleared a small area of jungle on Sir Anthony Oliphant’s land. Gapp left the island “a few” years later and claimed that the plants were doing well at the time he departed.

1844-12-20 15:25:00

1844 Total Abolition of Slavery in Ceylon 20th December

1845-02-07 15:25:00

1845 The Ceylon branch of the Royal Asiatic Society formed 7th February

1846-02-07 15:25:00

1846 Outbreak of Cholera in Kandy and Jaffna with more than 10,000 deaths in the latter district

1846-10-14 06:08:48

1846 Mr. Keane, a coffee planter

1846 Mr. Keane, a coffee planter, killed by an elephant whilst out on a shooting excursion 14th October.

1847-02-07 15:25:00

1847-1850 Governor Hon. Lord Torrington

1847-05-14 15:25:00

1847 Governor Hon. James Emerson Tennent

1847-10-14 06:08:48

1847 Prize for the best sample of plantation

1847 Prize for the best sample of plantation coffee, peeled and cured on estate, given to Mr. R. Middleton of Charlemont, Hewaheta by the Agri-Horticultural Society of Kandy.

1848-02-07 15:25:00

1848 The Road Ordinance passed

1848 The Road Ordinance passed, requiring every able-bodied man between 18 and 60 years of age to give six days' labour, or pay a few shillings as com- mutation, for the maintenance of the roads.

1848-04-11 15:25:00

1848 The first importation of Ice in to Ceylon 11th April

1849-12-21 15:25:00

1849 The first stone of St. Thomas' Collegiate School laid by Bishop Chapman and the Clergy of Colombo, 21st December.

1850-09-24 15:25:00

1850-1855 Governor Hon. George William Anderson

1850-09-24 15:25:00

1850 Pigeon Express from Galle

1850 Pigeon Express from Galle to Colombo successfully started by the Observer Newspaper, 24th September, and continued without interruption for eight years, when it was superseded by the telegraph.

1850-10-14 06:08:48

1850 First introduction of wooden spouting for coffee cherry transport on coffee estates by Mr. Winchester Webster of Springwood, Rakwana.

1853-07-01 06:08:48

1853 Export Duty on Cinnamon repealed (1st July).

1854-02-17 06:08:48

1854 The first meeting of the Planters

1854 The first meeting of the Planters' Association held in the Boarding-house, Kandy, 17th February

1855-11-17 15:25:00

1855-1860 Governor Hon. Henry Ward

1856-06-24 06:08:48

1856 The photographic art first introduced in Ceylon

1856 The photographic art first introduced in Ceylon by Mr. Parting, 24th June.

History of Ceylon Tea

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