Tea Regions of the World
Ever since its legendary discovery by Emperor Shennong in 2737 BC, the tea plant camellia sinensis has been embraced across the world bringing forth an incredible spectrum of regional varieties and aromas.
At P & T we highlight the beautiful landscapes and rich flavors of our tea growing regions by sourcing our teas directly at origin, from small scale farms grounded in their local traditions. From the rich, red volcanic soil of Kenya, to the crisp, clean mountain air of Nepal, and the tropical floodplains of India, discover the incredible bounty of regional flavors and aromas our selection of pure whole-leaf teas has to offer.
As the very birthplace of tea, China is where the mighty legacy of tea all began. Indeed, tea is woven into the very fabric of Chinese culture. The entire spectrum of tea is produced and enjoyed here: black, oolong, green, white, yellow, and pu-erh. From the aromatic Imperial Dragon green tea of Zhejiang to the smoky 1876 black tea of Anhui to the snowy white buds and glowing golden tips of Yunnan, the breadth of Chinese tea is unrivalled.
Tea was introduced to Japan in the 9th century when a monk returned home from a trip to China bearing tea seeds. Green tea is by far the most common tea produced and drunk here, and Japan developed its own practices — shading tea plants during cultivation and steaming leaves after harvest — which give Japanese green teas their hallmark grassy, umami flavors. Matcha, finely milled green tea powder, has been used in the chanoyu tea ceremony since the 12th century.
Numerous waves of migration brought tea cultivation and appreciation from China to the small, lush island of Formosa. Today, Taiwan has a thriving tea scene, famed in particular for its oolongs, though black and green teas are popular as well. A combination of sub-tropical lowlands and high mountains provide the perfect climate for a wide variety of teas. Connoisseurs around the world hold Taiwanese oolongs like our high-grown Mountain Orchid, floral-green Four Seasons of Spring, and ripe and fruity Oriental Beauty in high esteem.
As with Japan, tea was brought to Korea by monks who experienced tea and Zen Buddhist meditation on trips to China. After Confucianism overtook Buddhism as the main religion in the 14th century, Korean tea culture was suppressed, then dealt a further blow when Japan invaded in the 1590s. The gradual resurgence of Korean tea over the past 150 years has led to a variety of high-quality green and black teas, distinctive for their rich, roasty, and nutty aromas.
It’s the second-largest tea producer in the world, but India has only been cultivating tea since the 1820s, an industry set up by the British colonizers using seeds smuggled from China. The British had already developed a taste for black tea so that’s what they grew in India, and black tea continues to rule. Of widest acclaim are floral-fruity high-altitude Darjeelings and rich, malty Assams from the tropical lowlands. Then there’s spicy masala chai, a daily must for many Indians.
As with India, British colonial forces established tea cultivation in Sri Lanka as well, and it quickly became — and remained — the island’s most important crop. Sri Lanka holds steady as the world’s fourth-largest tea grower, with plantations concentrated in the middle of the island producing primarily black teas. They’re known as Ceylon teas after the British name for the island. Ceylon black teas offer a diverse range in flavor, from fresh, light florals grown in the high areas, to tangy and deeply aromatic in the mid-lands, to thick and malty in the lower elevations.
Tea cultivation migrated to Nepal from nearby Darjeeling in northern India, but unlike its Indian neighbor, Nepal was not colonized by the British and its tea trade remained limited. Since the 1960s, however, the government has invested heavily in tea production and Nepal is now home to a small but notable tea industry, including a variety of high-quality orthodox teas. The thin, clear mountain air slows down tea maturation to result in complex, delicate flavors.
Tea is the most important cash crop for this East African nation, the world’s third-largest producer of tea, though the majority of what’s grown is used for low-quality tea bags. However, a growing number of smaller-scale tea farmers are taking advantage of Kenya’s optimal climate and soil to produce produce high-quality orthodox teas. These range from bold, fruity black teas to complex white teas, grown in the tea regions in the country’s west.
Sri Lanka: Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons
Nepal: tcy3282, licensed under Creative Commons via Flickr
Kenya: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture, licensed under Creative Commons via Flickr