Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Celebrate National Iced Tea Month with Ceylon Teas From Sri Lanka

I just returned from speaking events at World Tea Expo in Las Vegas and also in Sonoma.  It was wonderful to "talk tea" with so many different folks. I am squeezing my blogs about Sri Lanka in between speaking and writing assignments so come along with me on a great summer escape!

June is National Iced Tea Month.  Did you know that Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka makes GREAT Iced Tea? I hope as you read my blog, you will know much more about Ceylon tea.

I had the opportunity to visit the Colombo Tea Auction in Sri Lanka. I was a guest of the John Keells Group which owns tea companies as well as beautiful hotels among other things.  It was a fascinating experience listening to tea being traded for distribution all over the world.   The auctioneers were hard to understand. The only way I knew they were done with one lot of tea and moving on to the next is the gavel went down.  Each transaction took usually less than a few minutes.

After the auction, our group was taken to a John Keells hotel for lunch. The hotel was stunning and modern. Sri Lanka is vying to become a tourist destination and the John Keells group is leading the way with beautiful hotels. You will see a few more of their hotels in my travel tea blogs later.

The lunch buffet was laid out beautifully! Here is just a sampling of the fruit and refreshing desserts offered!

After our "arduous" time at the tea auction and lunch, we went back to the corporate tea office of John Keells for a nice cupping session of their teas. In the photo, a man is weighing out the teas using an antique scale and coins as the counter weight on the other side. Cupping is the professional way of tasting teas. In my next book, I explain this in much more detail!  Can you guess how many times your teas are "professionally cupped" before you drink them at home?

The special cups used are called cupping sets.  Here's our cupping sets laid out to taste delicious Ceylon teas. The tea leaves are steeped in the cup with the handle and the lid is placed on top.  After steeping, the tea is poured into the bowl shaped cup and the leaves are inverted and placed on the lid for visual inspection.  Then, let the tasting begin. It is always a treat to be able to cup so many teas at one time.  If you think "tea is just tea," you wouldn't after cupping so many side-by-side.

After a great day of tea education, we headed back to the Galle Face Hotel for dinner and relaxation time.  I mentioned in my last blog about a museum in the hotel and thought I would tell you a little about one item in it. 

Yes, this is a car in the hotel, but not just any car.  Prince Phillip of Greece was in the Royal Navy and was stationed in Sri Lanka in 1940 where he bought his first personal car  It is a 1935 model Standard Nine.  Prince Phillip of Greece returned later to Sri Lanka in 1952 as the Duke of Edinburgh after marrying Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the II.  The car is in pristine condition and quite a treasure for the hotel.

It was a wonderful second day in Sri Lanka filled with tea education, interesting and delicious food, and meeting new Sri Lankan tea friends.  A nice evening stroll along the Indian Ocean was a great way to end the day.  Isn't it beautiful?
Please follow along with me, as I take you to some interesting tea plantations in my next blog that produce cinnamon and rubber too!  Have I inspired you to visit Sri Lanka yet?

Happy Sipping, Lisa