Tea Culture - Major Tea Growing Regions


Major Tea Growing Regions 



Major Tea Growing Regions

There are five traditional countries of origin for tea. They are China, Japan, India, Taiwan and Sri Lanka.



The birthplace of tea, all of the tea in China originates in the southern half of the country, where the climate is perfectly suited for growing tea.  Southern China is divided into three main tea growing regions:

The Southwest tea growing district is the southern most part of Tibet and includes Yunnan, Sichuan, and Guizhou provences.  The birthplace of tea, Yunnan, produces mostly black tea but white, green and oolongs can also originate from here. Almost all pu’erh is made in Yunnan as well.

The territory North of the Yangtze River is comprised of the Henan, Shanxi, Gansu & Shangdong provences. Producing mostly green tea, this area can suffer drought due to uneven rainfall. Several micro climates are found in this area and are ideal for growing tea.

The major tea growing region in China is the South China district.  This region is responsible for two thirds of China’s total tea crop. With its nutritious soil, this region is home to many of China’s famous teas. Black, Green and Oolong teas originate from the area, the most famous being Oolong. 



Japanese teas have special characteristics due to both the process of plucking as well as the process of manufacture. The pluck is different in that it is often done with a scissors-like clipper and, in many cases no attempt is made to pluck a whole leaf. The Japanese steep in opaque, covered tea pots so whole leaf teas and visual aspect of “the agony of the leaf” is not as important to them as it is to the Chinese. 

 Japanese tea leaves are steamed before rolling. It is this steaming process that causes the leaf and liquor to be such a bright green color (think of how any vegetable turns bright green with a little steaming) and have such a fresh and often “newly mown grass” aroma and flavor. Also the steaming can add a desirable flavor and aroma very like a roasted chestnut. The Japanese are 

experts at manipulating the flavor and aroma profiles of their teas. This is done be blending various grades and even some stem pieces to achieve the desired result.  Japan produces several styles of green tea; Sencha, Bancha, Hojicha, Gyokuru and Matcha.  Sencha tea represents 80% of the tea produced in Japan.  Genmaicha is a popular green tea and unique due to the roasted and sometimes popped rice that is added to impart a toasty flavor to the tea.




There are many tea growing areas of India, and the study of these regions is a book in itself.  India is a former British colony, this influence is reflected in the majority of the teas produced there being black; however, there are an increasing number of green teas coming from the Indian estates as well as a few white teas and a selection of oolongs. 


Assam Teas: Known for their malty and honey-like flavors and the richness of their cup, the teas from Assam are often found on the list of breakfast tea ingredients and stand up well to the addition of milk and sugar. These teas can produce a sweet and delicious cup, some are suitable as self-drinkers. 


Darjeeling Teas:  Nutty and woodsy, often with hints of honey and fruit, the liquor produced by Darjeeling teas possess a distinctive character easily recognized and beloved by many tea drinkers. Darjeeling teas are known for their unique astringency and mouth-feel, and do not take to milk. The color tends to be golden and these teas are often referred to as the “champagne of teas.”  Most Darjeeling estates are high in the mountains and the plucking season extends from April to October, with four distinct flushes. Different flushes from the Darjeeling area are appreciated for their distinct characteristics. The first flush teas are eagerly awaited by many and often act as harbingers of the following flushes.  


Nilgiri Teas: The teas of the Nilgiri Mountains are often used in chai and produce a cup that is known for its body and thickness. Deliciously sweet and fragrant, most of these teas could be considered as mid- level teas grown at about 3200 feet in elevation. Increasingly, Nilgiri teas are available as full-leaf, estate-designated teas.




To the tea lover the very name “Taiwan” is synonymous with fine oolong teas. The Taiwanese are experts in processing oolongs, particularly the greener and more delicate oolongs; they have specialized in producing fine oolong teas for centuries. Many of the best oolong teas produced in Taiwan are not exported as they consume more tea than they produce. Taiwanese oolongs are noted for their complex and alluring aromas varying from floral to vegetal and often with hints of fruits such as peach, plum or apricot. The finest are usually hand rolled and quite expensive but even the mid-grades can be delectable. The actual reason for this characteristic complex aroma and flavor profile is hard to isolate. The varietal of the plant, the climatic conditions (controlled or natural), the placement of the tea plants near orchards of fruit or flower gardens, the way the leaf is wilted and or bruised for oxidation and the drying process all enter into the picture and /or all account for one or more of the complexities that these teas possess.



Sri Lanka

Tea gardens in Sri Lanka produce a large portion of the high quality black teas exported into the world market. As Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon during the British colonization, the teas still commonly carry the name “Ceylon Tea”. 


The growing regions in Sri Lanka are denoted by their location on the island, their elevation and by the seasonal and intensity of drought and or rain they each receive at different times of the year. Due to these climatic and elevation differences the teas from each area have their own distinct characteristics. Ceylon teas of Sri Lanka are generally appreciated for their simple and straightforward liquors, they are often described as “elegant” because of this quality.


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