MAJOR SOURCES OF TEA IN THE WORLD TODAYAlthough tea is grown successfully in many countries and regions throughout the world, only ten produce it in such marketable quantities as to render them commercially important. These regions are: Sri Lanka, India, China, Java, Sumatra, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Africa and Argentina.
Teas are given a general classification in accordance with their countries of origin, such as India tea, China teas, etc. The different kinds and grades sold in the markets are the result of:
(1) different ages of the leaf and seasons of plucking
(2) different elevations at which the teas are grown
(3) varying climatic conditions
(4) differences in soil
(5) different methods of manufacture, whereby the leaves of the tea plant become green, black or oolong tea.
(6) sorting by sifting and final preparation for sale either unmixed, or, as is a more general practice, in a blended mixture of various sizes and qualities of made tea
Following are brief descriptions of the leading specialty exporting areas of the world:
Formerly known as Ceylon, and still referred to as Ceylon in the tea trade, Sri Lanka produces principally black, or oxidized teas. They are divided into high, medium, and low grown. The high grown teas are produced in the south central mountain range (5,900-6,500 feet) of the island and are especially noted for good strength and delicate flavor. The medium grown teas are flavorful, well-made leaves. The low grown teas have a well-made black leaf and are best suited to add strength to blends.
Indian teas are known by the names of areas in which they are grown (Assam ,Darjeeling, Dooars… ) and also by the names of gardens or estates. The principal teas of India are from Assam, Darjeeling, Nilgiri, Dooars, Orissa, Sikkim, and Kerala. In general, the dry leaf is black to brown and the cup full-bodied, rich and malty. Darjeeling, located on the southern slopes of the Himalayan mountain range, at altitudes from 6,500 to 9,900 feet, grows world renowned teas. The largest tea producing district in India, as well as the world, is Assam, which is located along the Brahmaputra River. They produce self drinking teas as well as full flavored teas that are essential in many tea blends.
China has a rich history of producing black, green and oolong teas. Black teas were initially only produced to be exported to the West, although that is not the case today. Generally these black teas are more delicate in nature than Indian black teas. The liquors range from rich and strong tea to the sweet liquor and fine aroma of Keemun teas. Green teas from China produce a light, sweet liquor, with grades that include Chunmee, Lung Ching, and Young Hyson. These teas are produced mainly in Anhui, Zhejiang, and Jiangxi provinces. Oolong teas are mainly produced in the Fujian and Guangdong provinces.
Previously known in the trade as Formosa, Taiwan produces black, green and oolong tea; however, they are best known for their superior oolong teas. Other varieties of tea grown in Formosa are mostly from China tea plants.
Production in Japan is mostly of green teas. Manufacture of green tea in Japan is quite different than that of most other countries in that the majority of their teas are machine picked and nearly all their tea growing areas are on well manicured rolling hills. Japanese green tea leaves are quite distinct with their needle-like shape and deep green color from being steamed during processing. While Japanese green teas tend to be more expensive than others, they usually lend themselves to more than one or two extra steepings.
In Indonesia, Sumatra produces black teas which are known by their garden marks. They are well made, useful blenders, soft and of medium strength in the cup. The cup quality is generally the same year round.
Kenya is located on the eastern part of Africa bordering the Indian Ocean and shares boundaries with the countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania. The hot and arid Great Rift Valley cuts through the center of the country separating the lofty Highlands mountainous range on each side. Kenya's main tea growing region is found there at altitudes ranging from 5,000 to 9,000 feet. Kenya produces mainly black teas that are full bodied and bold.
Teas from Argentina are low grown, with no redeeming qualities except low prices. Generally they are used as blending teas and by commercial tea baggers.
Nepal has a close proximity to Darjeeling and, with their mountainous Himalayan elevations, they yield teas with characteristics similar to their neighbor's. Recently more attention has been given to this tea growing region and Simpson & Vail is proud to be offering more teas and gardens from this area. Nepal teas are generally light and flavorful and exhibit a rich aroma.
Vietnamese teas have grown not only in production, but in popularity. As stability in the country increased after the war, the expertise and aid from other countries has helped to enhance the quality and cultivation of their tea gardens. Most of the Vietnamese teas that are currently being produced come from the mountainous northern regions of the country.