Tea Descriptions – high, medium and low

Ceylon tea comes in wide varieties that sometimes baffle the tenderfoot tea lovers. Here are a few pointers that would help you to better understand Ceylon tea.

High grown Tea

High grown Tea hails from the centre of the country’s hills, at an elevation of over 6000ft above sea level and is commonly grown in the districts of ‘Nuwara Eliya’, ‘Dimbula’ and ‘Uda Pussallawa’. Given the high elevation at which it is picked, the tea is bright in colour and greater in flavor and freshness, and thus is the most sought after.

The teas of Dimbula, is known by its signature golden-orange hue and a distinctive freshness that leaves a clean feeling after-taste. Teas from Uda Pussellawa and Nuwera Eliya are somewhat darker in the cup, with a pinkish hue and a hint of greater strength and flavour.

The eastern quality season from June to September produces the best high grown teas of the year, closely followed by the western season during the first quarter. The dry, cold conditions during this latter period add a hint of rose to the flavor of the tea, known for its medium body and subtle character.

High grown tea has a rare and refined quality that easily sets it apart from lower-grown varieties. As with all Ceylon Tea, high grown tea is available in several different grades. Excluding certain exotic varieties, the most sought-after is whole-leaf ‘Orange Pekoe’ (OP) and the slightly less costly, though still expensive grade is known as Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP).

Mid grown Tea

Mid grown tea is produced at an altitude of 2000 to 4000 ft above sea level, and is commonly found in the ‘Central’ and ‘Uva’ provinces of the country.

The teas of the Central province come from estates in the ‘Kandy’ region and are particularly flavoursome; though, as with all teas, their strength is inversely proportional to the elevation at which they are grown. Kandy teas tend to produce a relatively bright infusion with a coppery tone. Though lighter in the cup, they present a good deal of strength and body. The best tea of Kandy is produced during the first quarter of the year, when cool, dry weather sets in across the district.

Teas of Uva region are recognized and acknowledged all over the world. Mostly produced in the districts of ‘Badulla’ and ‘Bandarawela’, the mellow, smooth taste of Uva tea is easily distinguished from that of any other. The hills and unique weather conditions of Uva impart a special, unmistakable character and flavour to the tea that grows there, one that is highly acclaimed by trade and connoisseur alike.

Mid grown tea comes in a broad mix of different ‘grades’ or leaf-particle sizes, from whole-leaf and semi-broken grades through broken orange pekoes or ‘BOPs’ to BOP fannings. CTC-style teas are also produced.

Low grown Tea

Produced relatively near the coast in the ‘Sabaragamuwa’ and ‘Southern’ regions of Sri Lanka at an altitude of 2000ft; low-grown tea is characterized by the very long leaves which turn intensely black when withered.

Low grown teas, which are subjected to long periods of sunshine, dry and somewhat warm and moist conditions, exhibit burgundy brown liquor in the cup. The aroma however, is noticeably different from the other variations with a hint of sweet caramel, and is not quite as strong as that of high and medium grown. Teas are very strong and full flavoured with a hint of malt and is mostly suited to be consumed as black tea.

Low grown tea produced amidst the rich vegetation of the southern Sri Lanka is by no means inferior to high and medium grown tea and claim high prices in the global market. The teas come in a variety of leaf styles and sizes and are thus graded from prized ‘tips’ through whole- and semi-whole-leaf teas to ‘fannings’ and CTC.