Sri Lanka

Joining our classic Lucy Bee coconut oil is our oil from Sri Lanka.

Coming in vibrant orange jars and with a completely different taste to our traditional Philippine oil, we think you’ll soon fall in love with each one of our range.

Why Is Our Sri Lankan Oil Different?

Before we get to the Sri Lankan nitty gritty, we want to share with you all about our Sri Lankan oil – what makes it so special? And why are we convinced that you’ll love every last drop as much as us?

Amazingly, coconut oils vary in taste and it all depends on where those coconuts are grown. Depending on the region or the country they’re from, oils can be rich, full of flavour, mild or creamy.

Many of our customers believe that our classic Lucy Bee jars from the Philippines are rich and full of coconut flavour. Yet, while this new Sri Lankan oil is still unrefined, extra virgin, Fair Trade, organic and raw, it comes with its own, unique taste and flavour – one that’s so distinctive that even a coconut beginner will notice a difference.

Take a spoonful, and you’ll see for yourself! Our Sri Lankan oils come with a much lighter aroma and flavour – they’re a lot less coconutty, if you like, making them perfect for coconut novices.

If it’s a richer flavour you’re looking for or if you want to go nuts for coconuts (think homemade Bounty bars), simply reach for our other oil!

Where Is Sri Lanka?

Now, sit back and relax – we’re going to take you to Sri Lanka, and tell you everything you need to know.

Once upon a time – or at least during British colonial rule – this lush green island was known as Ceylon. Based in south Asia, (“Lanka” is Sanscrit for island) it lies in the Indian Ocean, close to both the Maldives and India. In fact, according to Hindu mythology, there was once a land bridge between India and Sri Lanka, although if there ever was one, it’s long since disappeared.

With a population of over 20 million, Sri Lanka has two capitals – a commercial capital, Colombo, and the legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. It’s wonderfully vibrant, full of culture and is home to all sorts of religions, ethnic groups and languages. Most people here are devoted Buddhists, although there are plenty of Christians, Hindus and even Muslims.

In fact, this beautiful island is about as multi-cultural as they come, which has been the root of many problems. As you’ll come to learn, there was a long-standing civil war, which was battled out for close to 30 years and has only recently ended.

The majority of people (around 15 million) living on this island country are Sinhalese and speak Sinhala, although a lot of people speak Tamil or English, too. Living alongside the Sinhalese are also Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils (the largest ethnic minority), Moors, Burghers, Malays, Kaffirs and even the aboriginal Vedda.

Tropical and hot with wild monsoon seasons, the island is a known biodiversity hotspot and is filled with beautiful flowers, plants and amazing animals. There are also plenty of wildlife reserves, home to some of the world’s most beautiful creatures – think lots of Asian elephants, leopards, peacocks, sloths and boars.

History and Politics

Coconut Palms - Sri Lanka

As we mentioned before, Sri Lanka is steeped in history and is a pretty fascinating country. In fact, some clever archaeologist types have found pre-historic human settlements dating back more than 125,000 years. Some even think that civilisation here could go back as far as 500,000 years. That’s a pretty long time, right?

The island has long been popular with travellers (tourism continues to be huge out here) which probably explains why it has such a fascinating culture. The famous explorer Marco Polo wrote that Ceylon was the finest island in the whole world, while the Ancient Greeks were thought to know it as the legendary Taprobana. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka was so beautiful that the Persians even called it Sarandīb, which is where the lovely word serendipity came from.

Over the years, Sri Lanka has been home to all sorts of colonies, people and invaders. Back in ancient times, the first ever kingdom was known as Anuradhapura and was founded way way way back in 377BC. It was during this time that the people embraced Buddhism with open arms, which travelled across from India thanks to the arrival of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka and a bhikku (Buddhist monk).

To this day, many of the Buddhist sculptures built during ancient times are still standing, and there’s even a world-famous Buddhist tree here. In fact, the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Tree is thought to be world’s oldest human-planted tree and came to life when a bhikkuni (a female Buddhist monk) came across with a sapling of the historical Bodhi tree, the very same tree where Buddha became enlightened.

However, despite many associating Buddhism with peace and harmony, there’s also a rich history of battle and war here, too. The peace was soon broken with the country’s first invasion by two horse traders from India. The next invasion quickly followed in 205BC, paving the way for many more invasions over the centuries.

Fast forward a fair few years and, in 1505, a Portuguese explorer by the name of Lourenco de Almeida arrived on the island. He was so impressed with its beauty and the amazing exports that, slowly but surely, more and more Portuguese started to follow.

Following quickly on their heels were lots of Dutch travellers. There soon became so many that, in 1638, the Sri Lankan king put pen to paper on a treaty with the Dutch East India Company to overhaul the Portuguese for good (the Burgher people in Sri Lanka are ancestors of the Dutch rule).

Soon enough, and we come to the British rule of Sri Lanka. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Brits started to fear that the French could gain control of the island – which they called Ceylon – and started to occupy many of the coastal towns as a result. After standing up to the Brits for quite some time, Sri Lanka independence came to an end in 1815 when Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, the last native monarch of Sri Lanka, was exiled to India.

During this time, there became a huge growth in coffee plantations, although falling coffee prices (a result of the depression in 1870) led to the governor introducing some shocking taxes – taxes on things such as on firearms, dogs, shops and even boats. The people were even forced into rajakariya, which was a harsh six days of FREE labour on roads.

As you can probably imagine, this led to widespread rebellion, while a devastating leaf disease went on to destroy the entire coffee industry in just fifteen years. This is when the Brits turned to tea –a lasting legacy to this day.

By 1948, the British Colony of Ceylon was given independence of Ceylon after a fairly peaceful uprising. However, most believed that the independence wasn’t complete, with only the white, educated elite in control of the government.

Beneath the surface, there were plenty of fights ongoing, particularly between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. These riots even ended in the assassination of the prime minister, Bandaranaike, in 1959 by an extremist Buddhist monk, although he went on to be replaced by his widow, Sirimavo, who became the world’s first ever elected PM.

By 1972, the country became a republic known as Sri Lanka, although there continued to be fighting among the Sinhalese and the Tamils –the Tamil Tigers, based in the North, fought desperately for their own, autonomous country. The situation deteriorated and deteriorated until civil war was declared in the 1980s.

As you probably already know, the civil war ran for many years - all the way up until 2009, when the Tamil Tigers (also known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) were defeated by the Sri Lankan military. During this time, there was a lot of violence, suicide attacks as well as high-profile attacks and assassinations, leading many countries to label the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organisation.

Shockingly, it’s thought that up to 100,000 people killed during the 26 years of conflict. Nowadays, though, Sri Lanka is slowly starting to turn things around, and has gone on to become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Life in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Coconut Production

Sri Lanka is full of glorious culture and life, with massive influences from Buddhism and Hinduism. In fact, take a stroll through Sri Lanka, and it’s likely you’ll be bowled over by the beautiful, traditional architecture. Full of history and wonder, there’s plenty of Buddhist sculptures and buildings that will take your breath away.

As you now probably now know, the island is home to two main cultures – the Sinhalese and the Tamils – who were traditionally at loggerheads for years. Of course, after years of British rule, Sri Lanka has plenty of Brit influences, too, and there are even Christmas and Easter celebrations for the Christians over there.

As you might expect from somewhere so diverse, there are plenty of other festivals and dates celebrated, too. Around 70% of Sri Lankans are Buddhists, who will celebrate the Buddhist festival of Esala Perahera (expect lots of dancing and beautifully painted elephants). Meanwhile, the Tamils will celebrate Thai Pongal and Maha Shivaratri, while Muslims will traditionally welcome Hajj and Ramadan.

As huge foodies, we’re always eager to hear about what another country eats – and Sri Lanka is full of amazing delicacies that will truly get your taste buds going. The big dishes here include mouth-watering curries – thought to be among the world’s spiciest - plenty of rice, Pittu (steamed cylinders of rice layered up with tasty coconut), the sweet and creamy wattalapam pudding and also hoppers, a breakfast pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk that’s currently taking UK street food stalls by storm.

When it comes to people and relationships, Sri Lankans will often be very modest and sometimes reserved. In fact, it’s common here to speak in hushed tones (although politicians are expected to shout!) completely avoid using personal names, instead turning to nicknames or even referring to relationship terms. This also extends to the kids, who are expected to develop a sense oflajjawa, or a feeling that combines shyness, shame, modesty, and even fear.

As with many Asian countries, the ultimate authority in any family tends to be the oldest male. This has often led to inequalities between men and women (although, it has to be said that women here have traditionally had more rights than many other countries in the region) – men will, largely, get picked for the best jobs and the better education and can even be prioritised with healthcare, too.

Women are also expected to keep themselves well covered at all times, as well as refuse alcohol and tobacco. In households, women will often eat last of all until they’ve served the men and the children. Marriages will also often be arranged – dowries are part of the way of life here - although “marriage for love” is becoming more and more common.

The sports nuts among you will probably know Sri Lanka for its love of cricket and this beloved game is a huge part of life here. You’ll find cricket fields scattered across the island for children to play and it’s even common for businesses to shut down when very important matches are televised. 

Education

Sri Lankan Coconut Oil Laboratory

Happily, Sri Lanka’s children have a fantastic – and free - education system in place, making them some of the smartest, most literate kids in the developing world.

In fact, education has pretty much always been important to Sri Lankans,and has been part of the island’s way of life since 543BC when people were taught in Buddhist temples and pirivenas (monastic colleges). Nowadays, the modern education system was helped along by British rule and there are close to 10,000 schools dotted around the island, serving a massive 4 million students.

Given this, perhaps it’s no surprise that these super bright youngsters have one of the most impressive literacy rates (98%) among all the developing nations. In fact, pretty much every single child (a huge 99%) is enrolled in primary school, too.

Of course, not everything in the education system here is shiny and positive – there are a few problems that need ironing out even now. There can be big gaps in access to good schools, as well as problems in getting youngsters from secondary school into further education – just 16% of those who qualify for uni get accepted in.

Economy

Sri Lanka Transporting Coconuts

Thanks to Sri Lanka’s famous and historical exports such as Ceylon cinnamon, tea, sugar, rubber and – yep – our favourite coconut oil, this island country is growing and growing when it comes to the economy.

Traditionally, Sri Lanka’s star industries include tourism (in 2010, The New York Times named Sri Lanka as the place to go), tea, clothing, rice production and other food, and these have all contributed to something of a boom - the per capita income of Sri Lanka has doubled since 2005, with poverty plummeting to just 7.6%. All of this has led Sri Lanka to be named as a bit of a future economic superstar, with The Dow Jones ranking It as an emerging market.

However, just to put this into perspective, the average monthly income in this rising country is still far behind anything you may pocket. The typical Sri Lankan worker will take home around 46,207 Rupees – while it may sound a lot, that’s just £483 to you and I.

As you may expect from an emerging country, there’s also a large gap between those living in the booming, up-and-coming cities to villagers in the rural areas. In fact, many villagers will live in small stick and mud thatched houses, which are pretty unchanged since ancient times.

Meanwhile, the cities such as Colombo also have a huge divide – expect to see towering, modern apartment buildings, complete with servants’ quarters, sitting alongside ramshackle wooden planks and metal sheets propped up along roads, beaches, rivers and railways.

Health

Ladies And Coconuts - Sri Lanka

Thankfully, the health system in Sri Lanka is one of the very best in the developing world – and the high life expectancy shows you just how healthy these islanders are!

Currently, Sri Lankan people are expected to live to around 75, perhaps thanks to the wonderful free healthcare system. There’s also plenty of lovely infrastructure in place that means around two-thirds of islanders can get safe, clean drinking water. This is something we’re incredibly passionate about, although, we’d love to see this soar to 100%!

While Westernised medicine is used here in hospitals and clinics, there are also plenty of Ayurvedic services, too. That means that many Sri Lankans embrace ancient, holistic remedies to heal and treat illness.

However, as with far too many of these developing countries, there’s a little bit of a catch – and often rural areas will be behind when it comes to healthcare. In particular, there’s a problem with malnutrition, especially among children. Sadly, with the World Health Organisation has revealed that just over 26% of children were “underweight” in 2012, while around 14% were “stunting” – that’s a small height for their age.

Poverty

While Sri Lanka is thriving in so many ways, poverty continues to be a problem, especially in rural areas –
In fact, 8.9% of the lovely people here live below the poverty line, with a massive 90% of these from rural and impoverished villages.

Much of this is down to the heart-breaking civil conflict in the north and east of the country, which has left 800,000 people homeless. This was only made worse by the devastating 2004 Tsunami, which killing more than 38,000 people and wiped out livelihoods in just a few terrifying minutes.

Sadly, one and a half million people here lost their homes in the wake of the Tsunami, proving just how vulnerable rural poor people are in the face of shocks and natural disasters. There was also a huge outbreak of cholera in the months that followed, leading to massive health problems.

Unfortunately, more than 40 per cent of these poor, rural people are small farmers, which is why we are so keen to help and support them with our Fair Trade coconut oil (see more on this later)

The Coconut Industry

Sri Lankan Coconut Oil Extraction

As one of the world’s biggest coconut producers, these make up around 12% of this tropical island’s produce. In fact, so popular is the coconut here that Sri Lanka’s first ever coconut plantation could well have been the world’s first, dating all the way back to 571to 604 A.D. Hoorah for Sri Lankan coconuts!

Eventually, Spanish and Portuguese explorers became so taken by the three little eyes of the coconut (they said it reminded them of a goblin or grinning face) that they named them coco, an ancient Spanish word for goblin. It was only when the “coco” came to England that 'nut' was added.

Us Brits (typically) fell head over heel for these coconuts and pushed for even more coconut production during the colonial reign. We also have this tropical island to thank for desiccated coconut sprinkled over smoothies and porridge – and all by something of an almost accident!  UK foodies realised that beautiful, juicy coconut meat made desiccated coconut when heated on steam tables and quickly rushed to start up the world’s first desiccated coconut factory in Dematagoda.

Sri Lanka - Coconuts

This beautiful island is now surpassed by both the Philippines (where our classic Lucy Bee jars come from) and Indonesia in coconut oil production. Sri Lanka has also missed out on the coconut water boom, which tends to be poured away as waste on the island.

Despite this, many Sri Lankans rely on the coconut palm for survival and refer to it as the "tree of life". There are hundreds of uses for this, where everything from the shell to the husk and even the flowers are used to make pure carbon, coir ropes, fibre for clothes, insulation, fertilisers and even dye. Heck, even the coconut shell has a use – they’re used to create buttons, are burned for fuel and used as bowls or cups. 

Production

We think that this oil is the best you’ll taste out of Sri Lanka and is grown in what’s known as the “Coconut triangle” (the three districts of Kurunegala, Puttalam and Colombo). However, what makes us especially happy is that our oil is produced on a family-run oil mill. Started as a small business in the 80s, it’s since spread and supports lots of local coconut farmers.

As with all of our range, it’s important to us that we give a little something back. That’s why we’ve made sure that our Sri Lankan oil is Fair Trade and can support the very same community who help us to produce such tasty coconut oil.

The Sri Lankan oil mills that we use also pride themselves on treating employees fairly, and making sure they stay happy and healthy. There’s plenty of holiday given to staff, hygienic facilities, worker bonuses and lots of safety checks - things which we may take for granted, but don’t happen in far too many factories in the Far East.

Tip of the Week

Don't skip breakfast! It kick-starts your metabolism and helps you to be alert and awake throughout the day. It also helps regulate your blood sugar levels, so make sure to have a wholesome and nutritious breakfast each and every day!