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Libation for the libido: Sri Lanka acts to sex up image of Ceylon tea

KANDANA, Sri Lanka--A hot cup of Ceylon tea is better known as being soothing and relaxing, but Sri Lanka is now marketing its most profitable export as a luxury boost for the libido.

The tea industry is increasingly plugging Ceylon's supposed aphrodisiac qualities in a bid to radically change perceptions of the brew, which manufacturers say can sell for less than water in some markets.

“We are highlighting the properties of tea that can give you an edge in the bedroom,” said Rohan Fernando, whose firm HVA Foods sells a small 60-gram jar of premium Ceylon for US$350.

“Tea has traditionally been the poor man's drink. We want to be at the top-end of the supply chain,” he said.

The industry may not yet have hard medical proof of Ceylon's performance-enhancing powers, but they have long been the stuff of legend among Sri Lankan tea lovers.

The brews known for their potency are the top-quality white teas, known as Silver Tips and Golden Tips, which are gaining popularity among well-heeled Chinese businessmen along with rich Saudis and Japanese, Fernando said.

Unlike orthodox teas, the white varieties are made with just the tender tea buds, which are sun-dried and carefully tended until they turn gold or silver in color.

At his tea factory in Kandana town, north of the capital Colombo, Fernando held up a ceramic urn wrapped in black velvet and sealed with a gold ribbon, explaining that a cuppa is not only good for sexual health.

The tea contains polyphenols, flavonoids and anti-oxidants — known to improve the immune system and blood circulation.

Leading tea maker Herman Gunaratne is also keen to promote such qualities in his rare “virgin white” tea, so called because it is untouched by human hands in production, unlike orthodox types hand-plucked from the tea bush.

The product retails at the Mariage Freres tea emporium in Paris for US$88 for a 20-gram box, the equivalent of US$4,400 per kilo.

“My virgin white tea contains 10.11-percent anti-oxidants ... This could be the highest level of anti-oxidants in any tea,” Gunaratne told AFP.

“When your overall health improves, your sexual performance automatically increases.”

Tea is not indigenous to Sri Lanka, but after Scotsman James Taylor planted the first tea bush, Camellia Sinensis, in 1849, it became a primary export. Last year, tea brought in nearly US$1.5 billion to the country's coffers.

Sri Lanka also conducts the world's largest weekly tea auction where 5 to 6 million kilograms (10 to 13 million pounds) change hands.

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This picture taken on March 14 shows Sri Lankan exotic Golden Tips, left, Silver Tips, center, and Japanese Sencha tea on display at a factory in Kandana on the outskirts of ...

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