James Taylor marked the birth of the tea industry in Ceylon by starting a tea plantation in the Loolecondera estate in Kandy in 1867. He began the tea plantation on an estate of just 19 acres(77,000 m2) and after this the number of estates gradually increased. However, establishing tea gardens in the steep Sri Lankan hillsides proved a major challenge with writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once stating “The tea fields of Ceylon are as true a monument to courage as is the lion at Waterloo”. By 1873 the first shipment of Ceylon tea, a consignment of some 23 lb, arrived in London.
Previously, coffee had been cultivated on the island. However, in 1869 the plantations were devastated by a fungal disease called Hemileia vastatrix, better known as ‘coffee blight’ and nicknamed ‘Devastating Emily’. Coffee production dipped rapidly as the disease set in. However, this misfortune tied in perfectly with the rising popularity of tea across Europe, leading to many of the plantations switching to tea. Today the country is the world's fourth largest producer of tea.