Geography is History



A review of Ceylon Tea: The Trade That Made a Nation by Richard Simon

By Anvar Alikhan


I remember once writing an ad for Ceylon tea for an international audience. The image showed a shattered tea cup, and the line said: ‘Sorry, but your tea cup is probably not good enough for this tea’. The ad then went on to talk about how to appreciate a good Ceylon tea – starting with getting yourself a delicate China tea cup to drink it from, because a regular pottery cup ruins the experience. Talking with tea-tasters to collect the information for that ad was my first introduction to the world of tea appreciation, and its rituals. And that set me on a journey of learning that still continues. Which is why reading ‘Ceylon Tea: The Trade That Made a Nation’ was a special pleasure for me. 


I am fascinated by the idea that ‘Geography is History’. I suppose that concept holds true for most countries in some way, but it perhaps holds particularly true for Sri Lanka. And what Richard Simon does, essentially, is to explore this theme. He begins with Marco Polo, who apparently said of Sri Lanka, ‘For its actual size, it is better circumstanced than any other island in the world’. And from there he brings us down through the centuries – from the time Sri Lanka was the ‘Spice Isle’ of the Dutch, supplying cinnamon to titillate the palates of 17th century Europe, through the glory days when it became the world’s largest supplier of coffee, to the ‘Great Coffee Disaster’ of the 1870s. And then, from the felicitous replacement of coffee with tea, through the various upheavals of the 20th century – economic, political, ethnic and military – he brings us to the present day. 


Along the way, Simon touches upon fascinating subjects, like how Rajasinha II, the 17th century king of Kandy, regretted having supported the Dutch against the Portuguese, bitterly remarking that he had merely ‘traded ginger for cinnamon’; how a Scotsman named James Taylor transformed Sri Lanka’s future with a little experiment at a place named Loolecondera; how Sir Thomas Lipton created the global market for tea, by making it more affordable; and why, unlike in the case of wine, there is no ‘Grand Cru’ of tea. But even more interesting, perhaps, are some of the what-ifs of history that Simon suggests, like: what if the British had not mistaken the ancient Sinhalese custom of ‘rajakariya’ for laziness, and used local labourers instead of importing Tamil labourers? And what if, instead of cultivating tea, they had decided to cultivate some obscure crop like cinchona, or indigo (as it may well have done)? Thought-provoking questions, indeed!


Ceylon Tea is, indeed a story of geography inextricably intertwined with history, and Simon tells it with vivacity, elegance and delightful turn of phrase. He notes, for example, that the nineteenth-century planter made up for his dietary deficiencies ‘by frequent recourse to spirituous consolation’. Of the incompetent Governor Torrington, he writes that he ordered his army to suppress rebels, ‘which they did with sanguinary enthusiasm’. Of planting in the mid 19th century, he says it was it was a career for ‘poor lads with broad shoulders and narrow prospects’. And he describes the tea taster as ‘the practitioner of a dark art whose lore was for long decades a closely guarded secret amongst the brotherhood of tea’.


Ceylon Tea is a splendidly produced book, thanks to Dominic Sansoni’s sumptuous photography and the charming archival images that accompany the narrative (having worked on similar books myself, I am filled with admiration for the painstaking pictorial research that has evidently gone into this). In fact, the book is perhaps a little too good-looking for its own good: the danger is that people might treat it as just a ‘coffee-table book’, simply admiring the images, and keeping it as a living room adornment – thereby missing out on the richly detailed and pleasurable narrative.


In a sense, reading ‘Ceylon Tea’ reminded me of ‘The Panama Hat Trail’ by Tom Miller, about the Panama hat industry in Ecuador –one of my favourite business books, because of the way it describes the workings of the industry in great detail, and yet does so in the engaging manner of a best-selling travel book (I can’t think of anything duller than the inner mechanism of Sri Lanka’s tea auctions, for example, and yet Simon presents it in an entirely readable – almost entertaining – manner). In another sense, Ceylon Tea reminded me of L’Aventure du Sucre, that wonderful museum in Mauritius, set in an abandoned nineteenth-century sugar mill, which presents the history of Mauritius and its people – the colonial eras of the Dutch, French and British; the slave trade; the hypocrisies of the indentured labour system – all through the history of the sugar industry, upon which the island’s economy was built. The parallels with Sri Lanka and its tea industry are striking.


(The writer is Strategy Consultant, J.Walter Thompson, India. He spent some of the best years of his life working in Colombo. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ,


Daily FT-14th July 2017

150th anniversary of Ceylon Tea commemorated with two stamps


Two stamps were launched yesterday to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Ceylon Tea. 


Minister of Plantation Industries Navin Dissanayake, Posts, Postal Services and Muslim Religious Affairs Minister Mohammad Hashim Abdul Halim and Sri Lanka Tea Board Chairman Rohan Pethiyagoda were present at the ceremony along with tea industry leaders. 


Minister Haleem presented the two postal stamps valued at Rs. 35 each and a first-day cover to Minister Dissanayake. Dr. Pethiyagoda and Colombo Tea Traders Association Chairman Anselm Perera were also present.


Daily FT, 14th July 2017.

Maliban, Official Biscuit Partner for ‘Global Ceylon Tea Party’


From left: Maliban Biscuits Director Wickramapala, Maliban Biscuits Director T. Samaraweera, Maliban Biscuits Managing Director Kumudika Fernando, Maliban Biscuits Chairman A.G.R. Samaraweera, Sri Lanka Tea Board Chairman Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda, CTTA and Euro Scan Exports Chairman Anslem Perera and Asia Siyaka Commodities CEO Anil Cooke

The most loved biscuit manufacturer with a heritage of over 65 years join hands with the Sri Lanka Tea Board in celebrating the 150th anniversary of Ceylon Tea worldwide. 


Adding to this prestigious occasion, Maliban has produced an exclusive signature biscuit range in two flavours – Earl’s Grey and Ginger Tea – featuring the 150-year trademarked logo of Ceylon Tea. This exclusive range is to be revealed at the Global Ceylon Tea Party events which are to be hosted by the Sri Lankan consulates across 162 countries covering five continents on 6 July.


“It is a great honour for us to be a part of such a prestigious global event, to be recognised globally along with Ceylon Tea, one of the most intrinsic commodities that has made an impact on the social, cultural and economic spheres in Sri Lanka. As a pioneer in our industry we are proud to stand side by side with another world renowned product that is from Sri Lanka, both having won hearts and minds of consumers worldwide. Starting from the Land of the Rising Sun, all the way to South America, the global Ceylon Tea Party is to be celebrated at 5 p.m. in each country in the designated locations across over 100 countries. With no one having attempted such a feat prior to this event, we are delighted to be a part of this event by the Ceylon Tea Board in pursuit of a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest tea party,” said Maliban Biscuit Manufactories Ltd. Managing Director Kumudika Fernando.


The Sri Lanka Tea Board announced earlier that Ceylon Tea would be served with an especially flown in Maliban range of biscuits and two sweetmeats of each country to commemorate 150 years since James Taylor first perfected the unique taste of Ceylon Tea, which since then has won hearts world over. The celebratory biscuits exclusively produced by Maliban for the global event is to revive the traditions of tea drinking and keep it alive.



The official handing over of the exclusive biscuit packs was done on 20 June at Maliban Factory. At a small gathering, the top management of the Maliban Group presented the Ceylon Tea Board Members with the uniquely designed box containing the special range of biscuits which will be flown off to 162 countries worldwide, where the biscuits will be served as a complement to a cup of Ceylon’s finest tea.


Daily FT, 04th July 2017

Tea Board Chairman lauds Dilmah book on tea


I was delighted when Dilhan sent me this book about a month ago, I read it from cover to cover with much interest, why I think that it was important, I wanted to bring it with me to get Tissa to autograph it for me, but I find that my copy has been pinched, so I think we are off to a good start with this book. 


I think tea and its health don’t deserve a better advocate or a better example as Mr. Fernando, obviously done a world of good, well done. Congratulations to Dilmah for flying this flag, Ceylon Tea, across the world, I would argue that more people would know, more people across the world would know the brand name of Dilmah and know that Ceylon and Sri Lanka are the same place. I dare say… That’s a testament to the effectiveness with which you have carried your brand name across the world. 


It gives me so much pride when I go and go around the supermarket in some remote part of Australia or New Zealand, UK or Singapore to see Dilmah tea on the shelf. So it has become an ambassador for what Sri Lanka represents and also the fact that carries with that an assurance to the customer that the tea is clean and it conforms to the highest standard that you would otherwise expect, that’s the plus point.




Tea is not unhealthy


The second point regarding the book is I tend to look at this kind of book upside down, because as a scientist my training is to question everything. So for me it is not so much that Tissa expounds the health benefits in tea, it’s that he shows that after a couple of millennia of tea drinking nobody has found anything wrong with drinking tea. 1-SLTB-Chairman-Dr


Tea is not unhealthy, I think that it is an important message because it also goes to something that Dilhan said, nowadays people are drinking what manner of herbs without really knowing what they are drinking, here is a rub – 99.99% of the pesticides in this world are manufactured by plants, every plant is a factory of pesticides because that it is how it prevents itself from being eaten by insects. 


So even if you think of nicotine or pyrethrin or any of these plants that are used in the organic food industry to prevent insect attack, they are the ones who are manufacturing the toxins and so when we infuse and drink with this wide variety of herbs now that we are drink around the world, nobody has stopped to check for a minute, what Tissa has done is to take all the scientific studies and found that those herbs are safe to drink.


I was astonished to find that a common herb like thyme for example has 240 parts per million of caffeic acid, caffeic acid is in the same WHO schedule of carcinogens as glyphosate and thyme is a commonly used herb, but if you drink a thyme infusion day after day, something bad could happen. Many of these infusions that people are drinking completely untested and I think it will come back to bite those industries in due course. 


But tea, as you show from the book, is something that is safe to drink, let alone the health benefits, those are separate matter, if it does you some good in addition, so much the better but it certainly doesn’t do you any harm and that’s an important message to get across to the tea drinking world. 




Healthier lives


The second thing is that people are coming increasingly to view these infusions as something to do with how our grandparents and great grandparents lived. This yearning to go back to the Victorian era and think subscribe to the illusion things were better then. 


Things were not better, things are a lot better now. In 1948 when we got independence life expectancy in Sri Lanka was 48 years, today it is 75 years, a quarter century has been added to our lives on average as a result of the benefits that the agricultural revolution and science has given us. To dispel all this and to say that we want to revert to the edel of Victorian or pre-Victorian times is greatly and profoundly mistaken but still it’s a common held belief, most people think that things were better in our grandparents and great grandparents time. They were not. 


We are living pain-free lives. We are living much healthier lives. I am sure Mr. Fernando would remember children who got cholera, small pox; now our children don’t even get measles, mumps, chicken pox, we have got rid of diseases, to say that we are yearning for health, justified but it is a mistaken belief to think that we are any less healthy than our parents, grandparents or ancestors. 


We are a lot healthy. So this new consciousness for health is why I think tea should get the attention it deserves as a safe beverage. Even coffee cannot be regarded by any scientific assessment as a safe beverage, we all know what happens to people who drink too much coffee, coffee addiction and dependence are common place, if you don’t have your daily cup of coffee you start getting headaches, you start craving. So I think the message that comes from the book is that there is a huge amount of value in the health benefits of tea. 




Sugar consumption


But there is another point, which is that for every kilo of tea that we consume in Sri Lanka, we consume on average 15 kilos of sugar so the capita consumption of sugar in Sri Lanka is 30 kilograms person per year, tea is 1.4 kilograms per person per year. That is the staggering enlightenment of our lifestyle and so while we push health benefits, I am not say that all the sugar gets drunk with the tea, but while we push health benefits we also have to push the idea that people need to adjust lifestyles to become even more healthy. 


Because even though we have got rid of chicken pox and mumps we have now more diabetes. So this is a continuing battle for every bit of progress that we make there is a bit of regress and if we are going to take this message forward, it means building more consciousness in the country and overseas about how to do things right and this book is a huge step in that direction and for that reason… 


So I want to congratulate you Tissa on doing a magnificent job, it’s a lovely book. I read through the tables, I even checked some of the references because I am a bit pedantic when it comes to this kind of thing and I found no flaw. So I think it will hugely add value and I hope it gets circulated well and I have no doubt that it will get huge amount of credibility to this miraculous beverage that we call Ceylon Tea that we want the world to love even more than it has now. 


Thank you again for Dilmah in doing a great job in not just selling tea but adding so much value to this industry by way of making not just this publication but all the other publications that you may not know. From biodiversity on healthy farming, organics and so on. This literature has become a hugely valuable and I hope you will keep doing it in the future.


Daily FT, 01st July 2017

Sri Lanka shines at World Tea Expo

Sri Lanka’s celebrated Ceylon Tea roared at this year’s World Tea Expo, drawing attention to the official country of origin and showing by example its pedigree of social, economic, and environmental responsibility.

Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of black orthodox tea, accounting for 6.2% of world production and exporting 16.9% of the world’s tea. The island of tea employs 1.5 million people in the cultivation and processing of hand-plucked leaf.


Premala Srikantha, Director of Promotion for the Sri Lanka Tea Board, in the Ministry of Plantation Industries, received a plaque commemorating 150 years of Ceylon Tea from Manik Jayakumar, founder of QTrade Teas & Herbs, in Cerritos, Calif. Jayakumar is a native of Sri Lanka and former manager of several prestigious Sri Lankan tea gardens.


Rohan Pethiyagoda, who chairs the Sri Lanka Tea Board, said the occasion presented not only an opportunity to share with the United States “but the whole of the tea-drinking world”.


The Tea Board announced a Global Ceylon Tea Party to be celebrated 6 July at 5 p.m. at Sri Lankan diplomatic missions worldwide. The event begins in Fiji, then advances by the hour to New Zealand and continues in every time zone.


On the exhibition floor, Chamara Udugama at Tea Talk said the Sri Lanka pavilion provided good exposure to the 3,500 attending. The company offers 40 types of single-estate teas. The fruit teas used in making iced tea are popular, he said, citing papaya peach as an example. “The K-cups are getting notice as well,” said Udugama, whose company, founded in 2013, sells wholesale and operates a tea shop, restaurant, lounge, and hotel in Colombo.


Jayakumar, the event’s Platinum Sponsor, described Sri Lanka’s commitment to sustainability during a presentation at the Special Events Stage. Teas from Sri Lanka are the only teas in the world to earn “ozone-friendly” status under the Montreal Protocol, one of the most successful and effective environmental treaties ever implemented. Many of the gardens there are organic and all greatly limit the use of pesticides, he explained.


Gail Gastelu, publisher of The Tea House Times, presented slides showing the beautiful landscape, modern factories, and people who make up the tea industry in Sri Lanka, with its great diversity of teas from seven distinct producing regions. Her publication is on a mission to help people in the U.S. learn more about Ceylon tea and how special it is, she said.


Srikantha said that Sri Lanka has developed the capability to process tea quickly and to add value in packaging and advanced shipping. The tea auction at Colombo consistently ranks first in pricing teas.


“World Tea Expo is very good,” she said. “I like this show as everybody is serious about tea big or small. They come her to learn. I’m very pleased as we had quite a few visitors.”


Date - 22nd June 2017, Daily FT

India’s April tea exports drop 9.2%


Mumbai (Reuters): India’s tea exports in April fell 9.2% from a year ago to 12.21 million kg, the state-run Tea Board said in a statement.


The country’s tea exports in the first four months of 2017 rose 5.7% to 72.77 million kg, it said.


India, the world’s second-biggest tea producer, exports CTC (crush-tear-curl) grade mainly to Egypt, Pakistan and the UK, and the orthodox variety to Iraq, Iran and Russia. 

Date-19th June 2017, Daily FT


Ceylon Tea – A celebration of 150 years

One hundred and fifty years ago, the pioneers of Ceylon Tea, cultivated the land, built the infrastructure and laid out the foundation for an industry to be nurtured and grown. Today, producing 350 million kilograms annually and employing over 2% of the population of Sri Lanka, Ceylon Tea has become one of the top five export earners for our country.


Tea, inherently, has been Sri Lanka’s most important agricultural commodity. With its beginning in 1867, when the enterprising young Scotsman James Taylor experimented with tea as a replacement for the then disease-ridden coffee industry, the Ceylon Tea industry celebrates its 150th year anniversary in 2017. 


The Colombo Tea Traders’ Association (CTTA), together with the Sri Lanka Tea Board, and supported by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all the stakeholders of the tea industry, is celebrating this momentous sesquicentennial of the industry that sustained Sri Lanka’s economy for over 100 years with many events taking place throughout 2017.DFT-10-6


DFT-10-6The celebrations began with the unveiling of James Taylor’s monument at the Sri Lanka Tea Board’s premises in January.  Two Educational fairs too were held, one in Nuwara Eliya and the other in Pilimathalawe, with the aim of educating the children of plantation families on the importance of the tea industry and its sustenance. A tea festival is being planned to bring people from various sectors and countries, together. 


A major event planned by the CTTA is the Global Ceylon Tea Party. Beginning in Fiji, down to New Zealand and continuing in every time zone a tea party will be held in the relevant countries at 5 p.m. in each time zone on 6 July. This will make it a continuous, 24-hour global Ceylon Tea party. With the endorsement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, the CTTA will coordinate the tea parties, which will be hosted in the relevant time zones by the Heads of Missions of Sri Lanka. The CTTA is also supported in this venture by Sri Lanka’s oldest confectioner Maliban Biscuits, which has produced a biscuit with the 150-year logo in a special flavour of Earl Grey and also of ginger, especially for the global tea party. 


A charity auction of tea and tea memorabilia, in which the eight main operating brokers of the Colombo Tea Auction will be presenting five tea-related sterling silver items, such as a teapot, a model of the oldest tea roller, a tea-tasting scale and a gavel, a model tea-tasting set etc., will be auctioned. The funds collected from the charity auction will go towards activities to improve the quality of life and provision of health benefits of the estate workers. 


The tea industry will also release a publication on the history of its 150-year existence with interesting and beautiful illustrations of Sri Lanka’s tea country. The launch of this publication will take place on the same day as the charity auction, on 20 July. Furthermore, two stamps and a first day cover as well as a Rs. 10 coin which will be in circulation will be issued in celebration of the 150 years of Ceylon Tea. This commemorative coin too will be ceremonial released for public circulation in July.


The grand finale of the 150th anniversary will be the Tea Convention, which is expected to be attended by more than 200 overseas delegates. Eminent global speakers will discuss topics ranging from tea to motivation, packaging and mechanisation etc., towards empowering the future of the tea industry in Sri Lanka. The many events planned to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Ceylon Tea will reflect the importance of the industry that has immensely contributed to the economy of Sri Lanka for 150 years and strategies for its sustenance in the future, too. 


Date- 15th June 2017, Daily FT


The book "Ceylon Tea: The Trade That Made A Nation", in commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Ceylon Tea Industry, will be launched at the BMICH on July 20th, 2017. A pre-publication review of it by Mr. Mahen Dayananda. Authored by Mr. Richard Simon and illustrated by Mr. Dominic Sansoni, it is priced at Rs.11, 000/- with slip cover and Rs.10,000/- without slip cover.  




Having been a junior tea taster at Mackwoods Ltd. in the year 1966, I was privileged to be an integral part of the Colombo Tea Traders’ Association (CTTA) celebrations commemorating ‘A Hundred Years of Ceylon Tea’. I do recall that the Tea Convention itself was held at the Lionel Wendt Auditorium in the heart of Colombo. The CTTA event had attracted an international gathering of senior personalities from several countries extending from Japan in the Far East to the United States of America (USA) in the West. Apart from any other positive emotions, I was greatly impressed by the attendance at the gathering, which, by mid 1960 standards, could only be described as awesome from my own point of view. In fact, I do not think that there are more than a handful of participants/delegates from the One Hundred Year Celebrations who are still around. Hopefully these individuals will be an integral part of the forthcoming events planned to celebrate the 150th Anniversary later this year. 


We had access to an attractively presented book, authored by D. M. Forrest, entitled “A Hundred Years of Ceylon Tea”, which was essential reading for anyone connected with the tea industry during this period. The book itself was based on facts and anecdotes relating to the first 100 years of tea in Ceylon, as the island was then known. The present publication authored by Richard Simon under the auspices of the CTTA is indeed a commendable initiative. It goes without saying that the effort made by the author to present a period of 150 years of Ceylon Tea deserves serious commendation. 


The evaluation of our tea industry from the early primitive efforts to grow tea after the disastrous failure of coffee is captured in very readable language by the author. We must not forget that the original pioneers worked under extremely difficult conditions in relation to weather, transport and accommodation. 


At this stage of my review, I wish to refer to a priceless quote of an adventurous planter:

“If the accommodation was bad the food easily matched it”. 


Bread if available at all, was often ten days old by the time it reached the “Thottam”, mouldy and covered with ants. These tough individuals were undoubtedly cast in a different mould with a single minded pursuit of creating a new plantation industry from the depressing days of the coffee disaster. It was individuals such as James Taylor who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and created an amazing industry, which is still an important segment of our economy. Quite apart from the early planters we must also recognize the immense contribution made by recruits from South India who made the extremely dangerous and difficult journey from the Malabar Coast to ports such as Mannar in Northern Sri Lanka from where they continued their journey on foot into the hill country, enduring terrible privations of frightful proportions all along the way. Sadly many of them did not make it to their final destination and were either buried or cremated along the way. 


For the record, A.M.Ferguson estimated the death-rate among estate labourers during the mid 1850’s at 250 per 1000. To make matters worse, the living conditions of these workers according to H.W. Cave were “For the most part, the inhumane nature of labourers’ treatment at the hands of the system was barely recognized”. The first four chapters of the publication provide the reader with a wealth of information and detail in relation to what we could rightly classify as the period which laid the foundation for the subsequent success of our tea industry.


Commencing from chapter five, we read about the absolute ruin of the original coffee planters and the collapse of numerous banks and Estate Agents who operated in Ceylon during this calamitous period. 


We must repeatedly pay tribute and make reference to the personality and determination of a Scottish planter, James Taylor, who raised a crop of tea plants from Assam seeds. Subsequently, he commenced making tea from the leaves of these plants without any prior knowledge or experience. What is unique is that he had taught himself the method of manufacture entirely by a process of trial and error. By 1872, he had built his own “Tea- House” complete with a rolling machine, which he himself had designed. We now know that Loolecondera Estate was the original 19-acre field which represented the birth of tea in Ceylon under the total commitment and able management of the said James Taylor. 


Richard Simon then proceeds to describe the commercial sale of tea through the medium of the London Auction held in Mincing Lane. Moving on the author covers important events relating to the tea industry in Ceylon, including the birth of George Stuart & Company, which was formally incorporated in 1843. The strict hierarchy then prevalent on the plantations is also covered in great detail, including the systems, which gave birth to the nomenclature of Superintendent or Periya Dorai, Assistant Superintendent or Sinna Dorai, Visiting Agents not forgetting Kanganis who also originated from South India. 


Next in order of importance is the development of the Colombo Tea Auction, which provided an alternative channel of sales supplementing Mincing Lane in London. The success of the auction system in relation to tea is that a voluminous quantity of tea, ranging between 5.5 million kilos to 7.5 million kilos, is traded on a weekly basis. The Colombo Tea Auctions under the aegis and supervision of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and the CTTA has developed over the years into a major auction centre. It is a fact that overall supervision by the Chamber and the role of the CTTA in conducting the auctions in strictly implementing the related by-laws have helped in no uncertain measure to secure and maintain the reputation of the Tea Trade in Colombo for absolute transparency and probity. 


The establishment and development of Plantation Clubs in districts such as, Dimbula, Dickoya, Kandy, Nawalapitya, Uva and Uda Pussellawa are also covered in fair detail. However, we must not forget Plantation Clubs in the low country districts such as, Tebuwana, Ratnapura and Talduwa, which provided social activity and sporting facilities to a host of planters in the low country districts of the island. 


What is most interesting and suitably covered in a serious manner is the establishment and operations of the Planters’ Association (PA), which still continues as an important segment of our plantation industry. 


Reference is also made to a Trade Union formed by the planters themselves i.e. The Ceylon Planters’ Society (CPS), which in turn and over a period of time spun off various benevolent funds and societies. The origins of the Tea Research Institute (TRI) and members of its technical staff also provided the reader with very interesting background details and knowledge to those of us in the tea industry. Richard Simon takes the reader through a period when tea prices slumped to unimaginable levels following a period of great prosperity. It must be remembered that tea prices, as did other commodity prices, flourished significantly just before and during World War II. Here again, the author provides a plethora of interesting detail with continuous reference to the overall effects on our local tea trade. 


The author has not failed to capture the political background in Ceylon prior to and after Independence, which was ultimately granted on the 4th of February, 1948 to “the pealing of temple and church bells and the sound of joyful drums”. The tea economy in the island was impacted by the numerous political changes ever since Independence and these events, including the seriously negative effects of nationalization, are also covered and provide for interesting reading. 


It is of interest to refresh our memory with the significant changes in the tea industry, which were initiated from the mid ‘60s onwards. We witnessed two major initiatives to modernize and improve the structure and operations of the tea industry – one by the State, the other internal. The internal changes were managed by the CTTA and involved the entire trade to improve and standardize the entire process of decisions and procedures associated with the Colombo Tea Auctions. It is important to note that Messrs. Turquand Young & Co. was entrusted with this project over a period of several months. The CTTA Committee received regular progress reports during this period. 


The author describes in detail the impact of external forces on the industry around this time. A State Commission on the tea industry was appointed in May 1967 and a comprehensive report was produced by Sir Arthur Ranasinha. The industry’s system of sales and marketing was examined and commented on in detail by the Commissioners. The report also noted the duality of functions performed by certain Agency Houses and their subsidiaries. The reaction of the individual players in the trade to the report of the 1967 Tea Commission provides a wealth of information. The reader is also privy to an overall commentary of the significant political changes covering this period including the JVP insurrection of April 1971. 


The formation and establishment of the State Plantations Corporation (SPC), Usawasama and the Janatha Estate Development Board (JEDB) provide a background to the far reaching changes which were to follow. The reaction of the private sector to these changes documents very interesting background reading including the creation of the Sri Lanka Tea Board by an Act of Law on the 1st of January 1976. Furthermore, the decline and ultimate closure of several hitherto existing Agency Houses wielding immense power is carefully documented. The reader is privy to the increasing importance of our markets in the Middle-East; eg. Iraq, Kuwait, Egypt, Syria and Iran, not forgetting Russia (the former Soviet Union). 


The unfortunate ethnic riots of August 1977 and the consequent disruption to life in Sri Lanka are covered in the context of a historical background. The publication proceeds to describe the eventual journey towards the privatization of a significant segment of our plantations with specific reference to management. The land itself continues to be owned by the State. 


In conclusion, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the CTTA publication is a comprehensive and well documented treasure trove of significant events of relevance, covering a period of 150 years. It must be recorded that the publication, whilst both detailed and comprehensive, is also extremely readable and rich in connected folk-lore. 



This Pre-launch Review was carried out by Mr. Mahen Dayananda. Mr. Dayananda has been a member of the Tea Trade since 1965 and went on to be the Chairman of the Colombo Tea Traders Association. He has the unique honour of subsequently being elected the Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. He is the only person to hold both positions other than the first Chairman of the CTTA who was nominated by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce to that post when the CTTA was inaugurated in 1894. Mahen Dayananda has been conferred Honorary Life Membership of the CTTA.


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