Respected veteran Sri Lankan journalist Feizal Samath—Sunday Times business editor and prolific international correspondent, as well as talented musician, pictured right—knows a thing or two about tea, ‘the cup that cheers but does not inebriate’.
He also knows more than a thing or two about business, obviously, and in his latest ‘kussi amma sera’ (the kitchen files) column is asking why Britain, which started the whole business after all, is no longer among the world’s top 15 importers of Ceylon’s finest top export.
You might well ask, as Feizal does, at length. “What, no UK? The country from where 17- year-old Scottish lad James Taylor (no relation of US folk singer James Taylor) arrived in 1852 in then Ceylon and went on to plant the first tea seedlings at Loolecondera estate in Galaha, 15 years later, in 1867.”
Indeed. And although not able to supply an answer, he pointedly points out that “while Colombo’s tea links with the UK have all but severed, Kenya, where the first tea plantations emerged in 1903, still has a strong British presence, with the UK being one of its top three buyers”.
Background to the story is the fact that this year, “when Sri Lanka celebrates 150 years of tea (1867 – 2017) with year-round celebrations, new promotions and mega conferences, much will be spoken about Taylor and the origins of tea and the huge impact that successive British planters made not only on tea manufacture and production but also the way of life of the plantations”.
“It was the British who created the Colombo Tea Auction, the finest and biggest in the world and most of the tea at that time was shipped to Britain. While it was everything British on the plantations – until the 1970s when the estates were taken over by the government – what is food for thought now is that Britain doesn’t figure at all in Sri Lanka’s top 15 tea buyers.”
Meanwhile, the lengthy report also mulls over the serendipitous fact that tea plantations are now playing a major role in the emergence of tourism as a major driver of the Sri Lankan economy.
He says: “Who wouldn’t miss an opportunity to stay in a tea bungalow, complete with a bristling fire place, a steaming cup of tea – the best money can buy – and in the evening a round of drinks and conversation?” Something witty and inebriating, we hope!
Read the full report here.