Tea - Black, Green, or White
The history of tea (camellia sinensis, a warm-weather evergreen tree) goes back thousands of years in China. Tea was first brought to Britain in the mid-1800's, when the British East-India Company introduced the plants to India and Ceylon, bringing them from China to the British colonies for cultivation, mostly in Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon). The island's first commercial plantations were for cinnamon, but demand for it slumped in 1830s, leading to the cultivation of coffee, which at that time was more in demand. Somehow, the climate on the island wasn't ideal for coffee trees and they were devastated by the coffee leaf disease, wiping out most of them. In 1867, tea plants were introduced: they grew quite successfully and produced very fine teas, of which the first shipment was sent to London, UK, in 1873.
The best teas are grown in altitudes above 2,100 m (6,890 ft), in an environment that slows the growth of the plants, producing tea leaves with superior flavour. The mountains, warm temperatures, and annual rainfall of 100-125 cm (39-49 in) on Sri Lanka create ideal conditions for outstanding tea leaf crops. The leaves are harvested by picking two leaves and a bud, which have the finest flavour and aroma. Sri Lanka is one of the few countries where tea leaves are still picked by hand. The leaves are then processed very quickly for maximum quality. Ceylon's specialties are black tea and white tea, with black teas used alone or in blends. Green tea grown on the island is harvested from Assamese tea stock. These tea plants produce a fuller body, somewhat malty tea instead of the light yellow color associated with Chinese green tea.
Branding and grading of Ceylon tea:
There are three geographical groups of tea plantations - high or up-country, mid-country, and low-country.
The Ceylon tea brand shows a Lion in its logo - indicating that the tea is produced in Sri Lanka and the package should read: Pure Ceylon Tea - packed in Sri Lanka.
Two categories indicate size and appearance, but not necessarily quality: 'Leaf grades' and 'smaller broken grades'.
Classifications: Pekoe (P) the second fully opened leaf; Orange Pekoe (O.P) the first fully opened leaf; Flowery Orange Pekoe (F.O.P.) the first but not fully developed leaf; Broken Orange Pekoe (B.O.P.) especially flavourfull tea and mainstay of broken teas traded.
(Info from Wikipedia - Ceylon Tea, and www.tea.ca)