EstrafaDC said

Sri Lankan instead of Ceylon

Hi. A lot of the tea companies I’ve ordered from refer to teas as being Sri Lankan, not Ceylon — the colonial name. Is there a reason Steepster uses the old term? The country switched to Sri Lanka more than 49 years ago and officially stopped using the name in 2011.
I’ve added a few new teas and Sri Lanka isn’t an option so I think it might be helpful to add Sri Lanka as an ingredient one can choose and help also recode older tea descriptions.
Open to any conversation about this as I’m still relatively new to Steepster.

9 Replies
AJ said

It’s still an industry standard to sell Sri Lankan teas under the term ‘Ceylon’. The Tea Exporters Association of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Tea Board still continue to operate under the Industry Name ‘Ceylon Tea’, and all Sri Lankan teas are sold under the ‘Ceylon Tea Symbol of Quality’, a requirement on exports:

Unfortunately, we’d have to push Sri Lanka itself to overturn that history; I doubt they will, since Ceylon IS their brand, and is a ‘symbol of quality’; they would lose too much brand recognition.

It’s much the same with many Chinese-grown teas using outdated pre-pinyin transliterations, such as ‘Keemun’, ‘Oolong’, ‘Chunmee’, and ‘Lapsang Souchong’. Making the change when people only know these terms costs retailers and even producers quite a bit, because they would instantly lose brand recognition.

The only country that has managed to (somewhat) escape this, is Taiwan rebranding from Formosa tea (likely because its exporters are considerably smaller). There are still a lot of products branded under ‘Formosa Oolong’, but for the most part the industry has made the shift. Unfortunately they haven’t fully escaped China’s same pre-pinyin transliteration problem, such as with Pouchong/Bao Zhong.

+1 for this.

EstrafaDC said

Oh! Thanks for all of that background. Really helpful in understanding all of that. I do wonder if there’s some way to add Sri Lankan to the ingredients category so that it at least gets listed. Stash, Bird & Blend, and a few other places list a number of their teas as Sri Lankan. Which is why it made including accurate ingredients difficult. Many people don’t know that Sri Lanka(n) and Ceylon refer to the same place so it would seem their the possibility of missing detail as to the main ingredient in these tea blends.

I don’t think having both in the database as options would be a bad thing, so long as people respected mirroring the language used by the tea company when entering.

ie. If a company has labelled as Ceylon tea on their packaging list as Ceylon. If a company, like Bird & Blend, uses Sri Lankan than use Sri Lankan.

AJ said

It’s a fine balancing act between shirking colonial ties, and recognizing that some countries have built brands on top of those roots.

You can ‘suggest an ingredient’ (I think that just links to an email), which is then added manually by a higher up, but with Steepster’s ongoing migration from its original admins to Adagio, I assume the ingredient-list isn’t a top priority right now.

That said, ‘Ceylon Tea (Sri Lanka)’ or something similar would probably work. Splitting them up as Roswell suggested also works, although if I recall (maybe this was a fever dream) there was a plan to implement a ‘search by ingredient’ setup in the future, which would divide teas if you had to jump back and forth between two sections…

EstrafaDC said

Well, I wish there was a feature to “like” a reply. But not having that, let me thank you for both of these.

Hmmm well having this evening, after a bit of consideration, mentioned “SriLankan” tea—generically—in a tasting note, I’m both glad of my PC impulse, and sad that I’ve evaded their “symbol of quality”!

I think it’s probably also helpful to keep in mind that political correctness is largely a modern American cultural theme. All the former colonies of England are definitely not interested in emphasizing that heritage, for sure, but sensitivity to naming conventions to the same degree isn’t necessarily universal. Here is where I would say that I’m participating in some foreign culture and it works as a counter-example, but it’s not quite that simple. I do live in Thailand, but people here typically speak and write Thai, so trends like that are occurring in a language I only speak a little of (or not occurring, as I understand the case).

I remember first explaining political correctness to my Thai wife when we were in grad school together awhile back, over a decade now, explaining why the term “negro” is no longer in use (related to her saying it in public once). I’m sure it’s not a commonly used term here, but apparently political correctness in general never fully translated over as a cultural movement, and she had trouble grasping why such designations would keep changing over time, as they do.

Oriental might work as a second example. I participated in an expat forum that went back and forth over switching out being named after that (Oriental Expat), and of course eventually they did make a shift. But locally it’s a non-issue, both in relation to English not being native and that kind of shift not occurring, with implied tone often not being seen in the same way. Now “Oriental Beauty” oolong isn’t typically even being discussed as a designation that’s got to go, although one vendor did take it on themselves to initiate a shift to “Eastern Beauty.”

There are plenty of other local examples here that wouldn’t make sense in the US, just not related to tea, language use in between Thai and English, like translating gathoey or M to F transvestite as “lady-boy.” Is that even tone-negative? Here no, but in the US it would be tossed out. Then within the US liberals embrace political correctness while conservatives tend to hate it, and so on.

It seems relevant that Sri Lanka thinks Ceylon is a good brand-themed designation for their tea, just maybe not a singular deciding factor. I personally don’t attach any negative value to that convention, but then that’s what we’re discussing here, that different people would feel differently about that.

EstrafaDC said

Please don’t complicate this. This isn’t about “political correctness.” It’s just about two terms being used for the same thing among many tea brands. Seems most use “Ceylon” and others use “Sri Lankan.”
My main point was not having the option to label something as the teamaker has. That effects the search for a tea later here on Steepster. Seems there should be a way of having both search items come up but I’ll leave that to the technical wizards.
Many thanks again.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.