Colombo Tea Auction: The World's Flagship Auction

The first tea auction was held by the Sommerville Tea Brokers at the Colombo Tea Auction (CTA) in 1883. Today eight broking companies operate in Colombo and every tea producer will be represented by at least one of the brokers. The CTA aims to be highly ethical, and transparent, and it adopts a unique system where tea samples are made available to buyers  three weeks ahead of the auction giving them time to evaluate and bid on the teas. This ensures fair competition and allows the buyers to make informed decisions about quality and price.

Colombo samples from Tea Brokers. The first two letters denote the Broker's identity.

Quality is key. Prior to the auction every tea undergoes a meticulous grading process conducted by expert tasters. This ensures that only the finest teas, carefully selected and assessed for their appearance, aroma, and taste, make their way to the auction floor. Such meticulous quality control not only assures buyers of the tea's excellence but also bolsters the reputation of the CTA as the leading tea auction house.

Global Influence. The CTA has emerged as a  significant influencer in the global tea market. During the COVID 19 pandemic the CTA created an online tea market in the space of only two weeks and was the only open auction centre in the world. This built the CTA’s global reputation and established it as a critical reference point for tea traders, producers, and buyers alike. 

Colombo - tatsing a batch with a veteran Tea Broker.

CTA as a community resource. Beyond its role as a trading platform, the CTA has fostered a vibrant community of tea enthusiasts, traders, and stakeholders. It served as a hub for networking and collaboration, bringing together industry professionals from across the globe. The auction acted as a catalyst for knowledge exchange, enabling the sharing of best practices, innovations, and industry insights. However, with the introduction of the digital auction and ending of the open cry system, the networking opportunities and the camaraderie that was found around the original CTA is slowly disappearing. Today bidding happens more often from office premises, and the weekly meeting of Tea buyers, brokers and planters is sadly no more. 

In the ever-evolving world of tea trade, the Colombo Tea Auction remains an undisputed flagship in the world of  auctions. It is not just a historic institution, but also a testament to the timeless allure and enduring significance of tea in our lives.