The pure teas from our plantations are flavored with natural oils and dried fruits, flowers and herbs.
Many connoisseurs of good tea prefer the pure tea flavor that the hot water pulls out of the tea leaves. Done properly you can taste different flavours depending on how the tea is dried, and how much it is oxidized during the process. The longer the fermentation or oxidation – the darker sort of tea.
In all tea-drinking countries there is a tradition of adding herbs, flowers and aromatic oils to certain types of tea.
Some tastes fits nicely with the light taste of green tea and other flavours is mostly seen often in combination with black tea.
For us it is important that there is no added artificial taste added and no artificial flavours in our teas.
Our tea blends are based on natural ingredients and wherever possible we buy from sustainable small producers in the local area.
Some spices we collect in India, but most of our spices grow in Sri Lanka and can therefore can be purchased locally and added to our tea in our blending. This applies, for example for cinnamon, pepper and anise.
Some of our teas have added dried fruits from Sri Lanka. The Monsoon tea is a good example as it contains dried pieces of the giant soursop fruit from the tropical graviola tree.
Dried jasmine and roses are also included in several of our tea blends and natural aromatic flowers grow in abundance in Sri Lanka.
The history of cinnamon in Sri Lanka
Cinnamon is one of the main reasons that Sri Lanka has a long colonial history. In the 1500s Portuguese merchant ships came to the island, the merchants could literally smell the cinnamon far out to sea. Cinnamon, Cinnamomum zeylandicum, grew wild in the jungle and the sailors could in certain seasons smell the island far away. Spices were a desired luxury item in Europe, where certain spices could be sold with an exorbitant profit. Therefore, an entire island overflowing with cinnamon, pepper, ginger and cardamom was true treasure at the time.
Cinnamon still grows wild in some places in Sri Lanka, the plant is part of the island’s natural flora, but is also cultivated intensively at larger cinnamon farms and is today one of Sri Lanka’s main export items. Cinnamon from Sri Lanka are among the world’s best qualities.
Chaplon Tea Estate mainly use cinnamon from smaller producers, most of whome grow the spice in the traditional way without the use of either chemical fertilizer or pesticides.
In the cinnamon forest
Local spices is a tropical greeting of sun filled taste in many tea blends. Cinnamon is retrieved, among others, by small producers such as Ajid Piante.
On a small island that is less than one hectare, about half an hour by boat from Sri Lanka’s west coast at Madhu River lives Ajid Piante with his family. He has inherited one of the island’s small cinnamon plantations from his father and he is one of many local micro-producers of the famous Sri Lankan cinnamon which is considered among world’s best.
Close around the small clay-bricked house of Ajid Piante grows a thicket of cinnamon bushes. The true cinnamon is called Cinnamomum zeylandicum and is actually an evergreen tree that can be 10 to 15 meters high. But to cultivate cinnamon as a crop the tree is cut heavily so it appears as a tall shrub. The trunk is cut down to ten centimeters above the ground, for it is the young shoots and slender branches which can be used to spice production.
The inner bark
The branches are typically harvested when they are a few years old and the processing takes place in many places by hand with simple and primitive tools from the individual farmer as Ajid Piante.
First the outter bark is rasped off, the outermost coarse and dark bark. It smells of cinnamon, but should not be used as a spice. In cinnamon plantations the only use of the outer bark is as compost because the desired cinnamon spice is just under the dark bark and has a bright colour.
Ajid Piante chops around the branch at intervals corresponding to the length of the cinnamon sticks he wants to have and under the outer bark it is now possible to see a thin layer of light bark which he loosens gently with a knife.
The almost white, moist bark is rolled carefully together before it is hung to dry on ropes in the open air. The rolled up pieces of bark can also be dried on a woven mat under a roof or under the canopy in the yard. Here the bark is laid out to dry for three days and during the drying process occurs the delicate light brown colour that we associate with good cinnamon.
When the bark is dry, the cinnamon rods are ready to be sold.
A fragrant scrub
The debarked cinnamon branches are used by the family as firewood for the cooker, although the wood still contains some aromatic oils and smells distinctly of cinnamon. Some places in Sri Lanka uses the hard out bark of the cinnamon to produce toothpicks, but out on the small farms the bark is simply used for burning.
The cinnamon plantation of Ajid Piante forms a dense thicket, which is about three meters high around the house where the courtyard is shaded by a large mango tree. Cinnamon shrubs have evergreen foliage and cast shadows on all other vegetation. Cinnamon is not a crop that can be combined with others in the same way as coconut and pineapple that normally grows side by side in Sri Lanka’s agricultural areas on the coast.
The cinnamon harvest is done every day all year. The fresh green leaves smell intensely of cinnamon as soon as they just break a little bit and they are the basis for a different kind of cinnamon, the cinnamon oil. The leaves are crushed and then pressed for their content of the strong, aromatic cinnamon oil that is sold in small bottles for external use.
According to the local and originally Indian herbal medicinal tradition, Ayurveda, ‘knowledge of life’, cinnamon oil is generally antibacterial and anti fungal. In Sri Lanka it is used as a massage oil, but also to improve oral hygiene, toothaches and against ear pain.
Ajid Piantes family has owned the small cinnamon plantation for 40 years and it has so far been enough to support him, his wife, three sons and two daughters. On the jungle-like island in the river Madhus’ mangrove delta, is a well with fresh water and a small jetty. From here Ajid Piante sails the kids to school in the traditional catamaran of wood with a cloud of cinnamon scent behind him.