Tea is not just something nice to drink, but an international commodity. Have you ever wondered where that tea in your tea cup came from?
Tea was first grown and cultivated in China. Before long, it spread to Japan and then was transplanted far and wide. Today, tea is cultivated on lush hills, high mountains and coastal regions in a geographic belt that runs from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. The great teas of the world are grown and processed in a handful of countries: China, India, Japan, Sri Lanka , and Taiwan.
In China, tea is mostly produced in the southern half of the country. They produce some of the world’s rarest green teas, but they export mostly black tea. On an interesting note, the oldest living tea tree resides in China where it is said tea was discovered in the 5th century A.D. Though China exports a lot of black tea, many other teas are present and exported from there.
India produces more tea than any country in the world. Home to many major tea-producing regions, the most celebrated are Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri. From these regions come some of the most exquisite teas in the world.
Japan is renowned for producing green tea and elevating its consumption to a fine art. Its three major tea-growing regions are Shizuka, Kagoshima, and Mie. Shizuoka, between Mt. Fuji and the Pacific Coast, is the country’s most prolific tea-growing region. The Republic’s Spring Cherry and Big Green Hojicha are perfect introductions into the world of Japanese Green Tea. Bright green powdered matcha – a rare Japanese tea — is the star of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It is also commonly used around the world in making green tea themed desserts, like Green tea Cheesecake or Green tea Cupcakes.
The hills of the island of Sri Lanka ,formerly Ceylon, are planted with some of the world’s finest teas. Most Ceylon tea is black tea, fully oxidized. Tea was once a rarity in Sri Lanka – until the coffee crop failed and British grocery magnate Thomas Lipton converted coffee plantations to tea-growing in the 1880s.
The island of Taiwan was once known as Formosa, so you will hear the teas grown there still referred to as Formosan oolong teas. Cultivated at relatively low altitudes, most all of the teas processed on the island become oolong, a semi-fermented tea.
So next time you’re enjoying that cup of tea, whether oolong, green, black or herbal – you can know where it’s from and how that cup fits in the global picture.