James Taylor (March 29, 1835 Kincardineshire - May 2, 1892 Kandy) was a British citizen who introduced tea plantations to Sri Lanka (Ceylon). He arrived to Sri Lanka in 1852 and settled down in Loolecondera estate in Galaha. He lived in Sri Lanka until his death (57 years, more than half of his lifetime). He worked with Thomas Lipton, a Scottish immigrant, to develop the tea industry in Sri Lanka
Taylor visited India in 1866 to learn the basics of growing tea on plantations. Following his return, he started, in 1867, the plantation in Loolecondera estate in Kandy. He began the tea plantation an estate of just 19 acres (77,000 m2) in the District of Hewaheta Lower. He started a fully equipped tea factory in Loolecondera estate in 1872.
The export of tea accelerated from 23 pounds to 81 tons and in 1890 it reached the level of 22,900 tons.
In year 1872 Taylor attended the work of building a larger tea factory in Loolecondera and after that it started manufacturing of packeted tea. He already wrote about his success of starting a larger tea factory as "I have a machine of my own invention being made in Kandy for rolling tea which I think will be successful". In 1875 Taylor managed to send the first shipment of Ceylon tea to London tea auction.
Thomas Lipton a UK millionaire visited Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in 1890's, during his journey to Australia, and met Taylor. Both of them discussed about the business deal of exporting tea from Sri Lanka. Lipton's company became interested and started buying Ceylon tea.
The rapid growth of the Sri Lankan tea industry allowed the large tea companies to take over small farmers like Taylor. As a result Taylor was dismissed by the Loolecondera estate management, and he died one year later from severe gastroenteritis and dysentery. He was buried in the Mahaiyawa Cemetery in Kandy The headstone reads "In pious memory of James Taylor of Loolecondera Estate Ceylon, the pioneer of the cinchona and tea enterprise in this island, who died May 2, 1892, aged 57 years".
In 1893 one year after his death one million packets of Ceylon tea of the first shipment to London were sold in Chicago World's Fair.
The majority of the tea estates (more than 80 percent) were owned by British Companies from 1867 until 1971. In 1971 the government of Sri Lanka introduced a Land Reform Act which granted the ownership of tea estates to the government.
John Field, the High Commissioner for Great Britain in Sri Lanka made a comment in 1992 on the 100th anniversary of the death of Taylor: "It can be said of very few individuals that their labors have helped to shape the landscape of a country. But the beauty of the hill country as it now appears owes much to the inspiration of James Taylor, the man who introduced tea cultivation to Sri Lanka".
A museum was also built in 1992 to commemorate him at the place where he lived.
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