Tea is classified based on the agro climatic region in which it is grown, method of manufacture, and the different types of value added products. Ceylon Tea is grown at three distinct elevations and are classified as the low growns, medium growns and the high growns. These in turn can be divided into the Westerns and the Easterns according to the location of the estates. The best tea comes from the estates in the Nuwara Eliya region.
The Uva teas and the Dimbula teas are known as Seasonal teas. Lemon tea, Peach tea and many other spiced and scented teas are some of the value added products. It is said that like fine wine, fine tea is made under very difficult growing conditions. Each elevation, angle of slope, soil changes - all these affect the final quality attributes of the product.
Seasonal teas have a special superior quality in the flavour. In Sri Lanka there are two flavour seasons within the year; Dimbula season (January — March) and Uva season (July - September)
During this period the prevailing weather conditions are very harsh and stressful to the tea plant. There is no rain, it is windy, and the days are clear with a lot of sunshine while the nights are cold. These conditions are needed to produce flavour compounds in the tea leaf which give the characteristic high quality flavour to the Dimbula and Uva teas.
Depending on how tea leaves are processed we get Black tea, Green tea or Oolong tea. The difference in these teas is in the manufacturing process and it is the fermentation of the tea leaves that makes all the difference. Black tea is fermented, Green tea is not fermented, Oolong tea is partially fermented. Green tea is popular in South East Asia, mostly in China and Japan. Among the green teas the following types are popular:
- Japanese green tea (Sencha ar steamed green tea) — this has a characteristically refreshing aroma with a green note.
- Chinese green tea — (Lung Ching tea) — has an attractive flavour, characteristic floral, fruity and roasted aroma.
- Roasted green tea (Hajicha) — low grade of sencha tea is often roasted to about 180 °C for a few minutes to enhance the aroma to give a more brisk or light taste.
There are many other varieties and value added products of green tea available in the market. For example, white tea has a color that varies from pale yellow or light red to clear white. The flavor is very delicate. White Tea undergoes a minimal amount of processing and is made from the new leaves and young buds of a special variety of the tea plant. The leaves are harvested when they still have a coating of white fuzzy hairs. ‘Silver tips’ and ‘Silver needles’ are some examples that are marketed at a very special price!