Sri Lanka Touts World-Class Black Tea in South Korea

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Sri Lanka Touts World-Class Black Tea in South Korea


With tea lovers, the unique and deep taste of Ceylon attracts people across the globe. Sri Lanka's top envoy here shared some savory and interesting stories behind the tea.

``A really good black tea comes from the mountains and hills at high altitude,'' Sri Lankan Ambassador to South Korea G. Wijayasiri said in an interview with The Korea Times on Monday.

According to Wijayasiri, there are three kinds of tea, depending on the altitude: one is grown in coastal areas, and supposedly not of high quality; another is grown at about 600 to 700 meters above sea level, promising decent quality; and the third is produced at 1,000 meters above sea level, which is the best.

``The higher, the better,'' Wijayasiri said. ``In addition, good tea requires a good combination of altitude, rainfall and climate.''

The ambassador from the tropical island in the Indian Ocean stressed that his country provides an ideal environment for the production of excellent tea as it enjoys an excellent combination of the required factors.

``Though our country is not the largest producer of tea, it is the biggest exporter of black tea in the world,'' he emphasized throughout the interview.

The ambassador explained that ``Ceylon'' was the country's name until 1972.

``The name Ceylon was given to our people by foreign powers like Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain. It was not created by ourselves,'' Wijayasiri explained.

Asked, then, why Sri Lanka still sticks to the name Ceylon for its flagship product around the world, the top diplomat said, ``We still call our tea Ceylon tea because it became a brand name, so we don't want to change the name.''

Though Sri Lanka once endured colonial rule Britain, it is grateful for the European country on one point.

``British people first introduced coffee plantations to our country in 1830s, and there was soon a coffee boom there but the coffee plantation somehow suffered some kind of leaf disease,'' Wijayasiri continued. ``As a result, the British changed over to tea, and we really started tea production in the 1860s, and it became the main product of Sri Lanka after that.''

Apart from the drinking perspective, the ambassador also linked tea to tourism.

``Plantations are completely green all year round, and you can see women picking the tea leaves and putting them in a basket on their backs,'' Wijayasiri described. ``So it's a beautiful site, with beautiful scenery in the hilly regions.''

The ambassador mentioned that tourism is one area he would like to promote here, explaining only about 4,000 South Korean people visit Sri Lanka annually, a drop in the ocean compared with the eight million Korean who go abroad each year.

``We have lots of tourist attractions, you name whatever you want,'' he said. ``In particular, we have eight UNESCO-recognized cultural sites, mostly Buddhist monuments like Pulguksa Temple and Sokgulam Grotto in Kyongju.''

About 70 percent of the Sri Lankan population is Buddhist, he explained.

The ambassador, who came to Seoul one and half years ago, expressed his great affection for the Buddhist sculpture of Sokgulam Grotto.

``What is emanating from the Sokgulam statute is such serenity, compassion and beauty,'' he said. ``If you look at Sokgulam, it creates such an inner feeling that it remains in you even afterwards.''

The ambassador also turned out to be a real fan of Korean films as he enumerated a long list of his favorite movies including ``A Little Monk,'' ``Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, íŽ and Spring,'' and ``Let's Play Dharma.''

``Watching these films is how I have learned more about Korean society,'' he added.

South Korea established diplomatic ties with Sri Lanka in November 1977.


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