Tea cultivation regions around the world

China

Producing a large variety of teas, China is one of the two largest producers of tea in the world. They produce the largest amount of green tea, but only 20-25% is exported while the rest of it is consumed domestically. Majority of Chinese tea export include black tea. In China, the best-known provinces for tea is the "Golden Triangle" of Anhui, Zhejiang, and Jiangxi. Many classic tea styles that are sought after by connoisseurs also come from places like Yunnan, Fujian, and Guangdong.

Famous Chinese Teas

Silver Needle ("Yin Zhen") Also known as BaihaoYinzhen, White Hair Silver Needle, White Pekoe Silver Needle. The Silver Needle is a White tea comprised of only the unopened buds of the China plant. Organic Silver Needle tea is one the most revered and expensive teas in the world and is only harvested for a few days each year in the northern district of Fujian, China.

Silver Needle ("Yin Zhen") Also known as BaihaoYinzhen, White Hair Silver Needle, White Pekoe Silver Needle. The Silver Needle is a White tea comprised of only the unopened buds of the China plant. Organic Silver Needle tea is one the most revered and expensive teas in the world and is only harvested for a few days each year in the northern district of Fujian, China.

Dragonwell ("Long Jing") One of the top ten teas famous China. Dragonwell is a green tea that originates from the West Lake region of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province. During pan-firing, the leaves are pressed into a broad and flat shape. This tea was once reserved as a tribute only to Emperors and nobles for years.

Gunpowder ("zhūchá") Its Chinese name literally translates to 'pearl tea'. Each tea leaf is tightly rolled to extend the freshness of the tea. The most common variations being green tea or oolong where this rolling method of shaping tea is applied leaving only the outside edges exposed.

Ti Kuan Yin ("Iron Goddess of Mercy") As legend has it this tea was given as a gift from the goddess Guanyin to a devout farmer. This premium variety of Chinese oolong tea originated in the 19th century and was traditionally produced in Anxi in Fujian province. The processing of Tieguanyin tea is complex and has more than eleven steps involved and producing variations ranging from green to dark roasted.

Keemun ("Qimen") This prized black tea style, Keemun was produced exclusively in the Qimen County of the Huangshan City, in Anhui province and the best being produced in the early spring. It is believed that this tea was created when a failed civil servant took up tea farming, venturing to Fujian to learn the secrets of black tea production. Keemun was first produced in late 19th century and is still used for a number of classic blends, one such being "English Breakfast" tea. Keemun offers non-astringent notes of dark chocolate, pepper and malt.

Yunnan ("Dianhong") Dianhong which translates to "Dian Lake red tea", refers to a specific Black tea with large golden tippy leaves. This tea is considered a type of gourmet Chinese black tea sometimes used in various tea blends, which is grown in the Yunnan province, located in the far south of China, which is believed to be the birthplace of tea. The main difference between Dianhong and other Chinese black teas is the number of fine leaf buds, or "golden tips," present in the dried tea.

LapsangSouchong According to some, Lapsangsouchong is the first black tea in history and is sometimes referred to as 'smoked tea' simply because the leaves are traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires, giving it a distinctive flavour of smoky pine.

Pu-erh An ancient form of tea, Pu-erhs are a unique post-fermented tea, in other words, after they have been dried and rolled they go through a microbial fermentation process which causes the leaves to darken and change in flavour. There are two varieties of Pu-Erh, 'shou' and 'sheng', the former variety is cooked to stop the ageing process and the latter has not, allowing the tea leaves to only improve with age just like wine.

Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

Sri Lanka, earlier known as Ceylon is one of the largest exporters of black tea in the world. Tea grown here is classified into three varieties according to the altitude where the plants grow. The low-altitude variety yields a strong, dark infusion and is used mostly in blends; the high- altitude yields the best quality.

Notable Ceylon Teas

Pahata Rata "Low Country" (Sea Level-2,000 ft) Tea bushes that grow in this region produce full-bodied tea that is perfect for milk and sugar. Recently, a silver-tipped tea from the Ratnapura region has grown in popularity.

Medidata "Midland" (2,000-4,000 ft) These medium-altitude teas are medium and full-bodied and have a refreshing citrusy tang, brisk fruity notes and balanced astringency.

Udarata "High Country" (over 4,000 ft) These higher elevation teas can resemble a Darjeeling with their golden liquors and aromas. Like many Ceylon teas, these lean more toward a citrus note rather than the muscat grape flavour of a Darjeeling.

Japan

First introduced to Japan, by Japanese Buddhist monks who had travelled to China to study. After which it became a staple drink for the religious Japanese priests. In fact, the Japanese came to love the drink so much that they even created the Japanese tea ceremony known as the Way of Tea; which focuses on how tea is made from one’s heart.

Japan is a major tea producing country that almost exclusively processes only green tea, of which around 97% is consumed internally. Pan-fired, basket-fired and natural leaf are 3 styles used in preparing Japanese teas. Within these, there are three major quality levels: Bancha, Sencha and Gyokuro. In addition, there are other teas like the Matcha which is a powdered green tea, around which the Japanese tea ceremonies is centred.

Notable Japnese Teas

Sencha (literally: "Infused tea") This is a steamed green tea called, which takes up over three-quarters of Japan's total tea production.

Genmai Cha (literally: "Popped-rice Tea") By mixing Sencha leaves with roasted and puffed rice this unusual Japanese Green tea is made. This tea was originally drunk by poor Japanese, by adding the rice the flavour was not dramatically altered and it served as a filler, reducing the price of the tea, which is why it is also known as the "people's tea", and their tea supply could be significantly extended. This unique blend is now popular the world over.

Kukicha (or Bocha, 'Stem Tea') As its name implies, this is the only tea where leaf stems are intentionally included. Kukicha can easily be recognised by its combination of light yellow stalks and dark green Sencha leaves.

Gyokuro ("Jade Dew") Accounting for less than one per cent of all Japanese green tea produced, Gyokuro is a flavourful tea that is created by shading the plants with woven nets for weeks before harvesting.

Hojicha ("Roasted Tea") This tea came into existence thanks to a tea merchant in Kyoto who didn't want to waste a batch of old tea. Very different from the other methods of tea production used in Japan, Hojicha is made by roasting leaves from the last harvest season, in porcelain pots over charcoal.

Matcha ("Powdered Tea") The tea of the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Similar to Gyokuro, the plants used for matcha are shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest. Shade-grown leaves grow slower and force the plant to focus on nutrients thus creating fewer leaves. Powdered Matcha is made from the leaves of these plants that are stripped of all stems and veins, leaving only tender leaf pieces. Steamed, dried these leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder. As you consume the entire leaf, of any tea Macha has the highest concentrations of antioxidant, L-theanine and caffeine.

Taiwan (Formosa)

As Taiwan was formerly known as Formosa so Taiwanese tea is still referred to as Formosa tea. Taiwan produces green and black teas too but it's famously known for its Oolong. Multiple regions in Taiwan grow tea but the best teas come from higher altitudes.

Famous Formosa Teas

Pouchong ("BaoZhong") Literally translates to "paper wrapped" and is in reference to how the leaf was originally packed. Originating in the mountainous region of Pinglin, processing this semi-oxidized oolong involves a light roast along with a minimal amount of rolling. Formosa Pouchong.

Tung Ting ("Dong Ding") Dong Ding is believed to be the oldest and most renowned of all Taiwanese tea processes, this is again a semi oxidised tea and is known for its tightly rolled Min Nan (bead) leaves. These leaves are from plants that are grown in the mountains of Nantou at altitudes exceeding 1,600 feet.

BaiHao ("Oriental Beauty) Grown in the highlands of Hsinchu, BaiHao is oxidized between 65-70%. Unlike most Taiwanese oolong teas, the best grades of BaiHao are harvested in June and July. During this time the only leaves that are picked are the ones which are damaged by small green insects resembling grasshoppers. It just so happens that these plants release a defensive hormone which is pretty tasty.

Africa

The first plantations that were established in Africa in the 1880s were in Malawi. Kenya soon followed in 1903 and is today Africa's largest producer of tea. Compared to other tea producing countries tea is a relatively new crop in Africa, however, the continent is now one of the largest producers of tea in the world. Most common tea being produced is CTC (cut-tear-curl) black tea.

The varieties of tea served in Africa varies from region to region, in northern African countries such as Morocco and Egypt green teas flavoured with mint and sugar cubes, in other parts of the continent as in Mauritius and Kenya, black tea is served with milk and sugar.

South Africa's rooibos tea, is a regional variety which is a herbal brew, known for its health-giving properties. Somalia's Shaah is a blend of black tea and sugar flavoured with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom very similar to Indian Masala chai.

India

The British introducing tea to India was the outcome of two separate wars between the British and China in the 19th century, over the trade of tea. The first Opium war which lasted from 1839-1842 and the second Opium War lasted from 1856-1860. The British loved tea and wanted to break China’s monopoly on tea. As the climate and soil in India were favourable to tea bushes India soon became the second largest producer of tea worldwide and is known for some of the best tea in the world. Originating from three main regions in India namely, Darjeeling, Nilgiri and Assam. The variety of teas produced in India range from black, green, white and oolong.

Darjeeling is a relatively small area that lies in the foothills of the Himalayas at elevations of 3,000 to 6,500 feet. Here, some of the world's most sought-after teas are grown. Darjeeling tea is also referred to as the "Champagne of teas". The European Union has even given legal protection to the name "Darjeeling" where only teas produced in the region and to its standards can be labelled 'Darjeeling', legally. Darjeeling Tea is revered for its unique characteristics and exceptional quality. One characteristic primarily found in their second harvest is a distinctive "Muscatel" flavour which is specific to this region alone. So, you're experiencing a very different flavour in a cup of Darjeeling tea. The growing and harvesting season in Darjeeling is divided into four periods: First Flush lasts from March through April. Example: Okayti Vintage Second Flush runs from May through June. Example: Golden Treasure Muscatel Tea Monsoon flush lasts from July to early October. Example: Monsoon Mystique Autumnal Flush lasts from early October to mid-November. Example: Okayti Autumnal Delight (Details in: How to talk tea)

Assam Lying in the northeast corner of India, Assam's climatic condition is more in common with South East Asia than with India. Because of this, the first plantations set up by the British were in Assam. It's warm climate, rainfall and loam soil blend to make this area the world's most productive tea producer. Home to around 800 tea estates which is home to the Assamica variety of tea plant. These plants thrive in warm, sunny conditions because which they are grown at or near sea level. The best quality is from the spring flush and partners perfectly with cream and sugar. Example: Assam Golden Orthodox

Nilgiri The Blue Mountains, or commonly known as the Nilgiri’s,is located on thesouthwestern tip of India. Home to herds of elephants, grasslands, dense forests and one of the few remaining natural habitats for the Bengal tigers. There are more than 60,000 acres under cultivation in the Nilgiri’s. the tea plants bud year round because of its low latitude warm and moist conditions. A rare type of tea, known as a "frost tea", which is harvested in the winter is produced in the Nilgiri.