Sri Lankan Drinks: A local taste

Sri Lanka has some of the best drinks available in the world; some famed around the globe, others still fairly secret. Here we share them with you:

Ceylon tea

 Tea pickers at work in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Tea pickers at work in Kandy, Sri Lanka

One of Sri Lanka’s most famous exports, and definitely it’s most famous drink - Ceylon tea is planted, grown and picked right in the Sri Lankan heartlands. For an any-time-of-day pick me up, this is the one to turn to.

Samahan Tea

Relatively unknown outside of the country, Samahan tea is a household staple for most Sri Lankans. A mix of natural herbs and spices, this tea is said to cure coughs and colds though it’s also suitable as an everyday energising drink. It might be an acquired taste but once it’s got you, you’ll be hooked. We suggest you pack some in your suitcase to take home.

Lassi

 Lassi drinks

Lassi drinks

A favourite across many parts of Asia, this chilled mix of juice, yoghurt, milk, cardamon and sugar has long been drunk on a hot summer Sri Lankan day. Most lassi stores will offer a choice of fruit flavours, so pick your favourite and enjoy!

Kolakenda

This herbal drink, sometimes served as a soup, is a surprising mix of green leaves (often Gotukola, Ranawara, and Welpenela) with blended rice, water, coconut powder and salt. It probably goes without saying that the taste is unique and may take some getting used to, but given the obvious health benefits associated with anything packed with so much goodness, it’s probably a taste worth acquiring.

Fresh coconut water

 Coconut water on sale near Matara, Sri Lanka

Coconut water on sale near Matara, Sri Lanka

There is perhaps nothing more satisfying than picking your coconut from the offered selection, then watching the seller quickly hack the top off, pop in a straw, and serve. Nature’s goodness at its very best. The orange coconut is Sri Lanka’s most popular, and is known as a King Coconut, or Thambili.

Colombo Seven Gin

As Sri Lanka latches on to global trends, it seems the current popularity of Gin has not been overlooked. Distilled in Colombo using a unique mix of spices and plants including curry leaves, ginger and cinnamon, this new gin brand has described itself as a ‘Sri Lankan take on a London dry gin’. And if ever there was a theory to be tested, we think this is it!

Lion Beer

 Beer on the beach at sunset

Beer on the beach at sunset

Synonymous with Sri Lanka, Lion Beer is another of the country’s famous exports, sold widely in  bars around the world. A very drinkable beer, this is great for a few evening sundowners or over a light meal.

Toddy

The palm tree is a good source of edible produce; coconuts of course but also coconut syrup, palm sugar and toddy (also known as palm wine) - the latter a popular alcoholic drink made by fermenting the sap of the coconut flower. At around 5%, it’s light on alcohol, though often thought to be strong on taste, commonly described as a mix between cider and vinegar. We leave you to make your own mind up.

Arrak

Also from the palm tree, but much more potent, Arrak usually has a high alcohol percentage - so choose your tasting session wisely! Widely considered the national drink of Sri Lanka, its taste can be likened to whiskey or rum. Try it mixed with lemonade, coca-cola or ginger beer for a watered down version.

 - By Katie Silcox

This article was first written for Eden Villas in Sri Lanka.

Find out more about some of Sri Lanka's best food.