Ceylon Black Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Ceylon Black Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Most of us have probably heard the term terra incognita, but perhaps you’ve never thought much about where it comes from. As the story goes, once upon a time the phrase was inscribed upon those areas of maps that were an unknown. Nowadays, of course, these areas don’t take up as much space as they once did, in those days of yore before you could ship a package halfway around the globe overnight.

On my own personal map of the tea world, it’s Ceylon that still has a hint of terra incognita to it. That’s the name still given to the tea grown in what was once called Ceylon and is now known as Sri Lanka and which is a small island nation off the coast of India. While I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on the teas of India, China, or Japan, I have to say that I’m quite a bit more familiar with them than I am with the Ceylon varieties.

Which are almost all black teas, mind you, with anything that’s not being the rare exception to the rule. I’ve tried a few Ceylon teas over the years and can remember one or two that were quite exceptional, and yet I still have this faint and almost subconscious bias against this sort of tea. I think it’s because I tend to equate it – rightly or not – with certain tea giants who mostly seem to make tea that’s not all that exceptional.

So I shouldn’t be all that surprised when I find myself pleasantly…surprised by a fine tasting Ceylon tea, but I usually am. I might have tasted a Ceylon or two that tops this particular one but I’d rank it right up there and certainly wouldn’t object to drinking it on a regular basis.

One of the qualities I’ve always associated with Ceylon tea (again, rightly or not) is briskness, or the quality that tends to make your mouth want to pucker. It’s a quality I don’t like in tea. Fortunately this one had little or none of that, but rather had the fullness of flavor that I associate with my favorite black teas – like those from Yunnan, in China, or Assam, in India. And while I might never find a Ceylon that tops my favorite Assam varieties, the ones like this at least make the search a little more pleasant.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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