Tea Regions

Without question the best tasting teas available are loose leaf, unblended single estate teas. Even if the leaf is not large, it should be of high grade and consistent in size. Single-estate teas will never be exactly the same each time because of seasonal changes, and much of the excitement, just as in wines, comes from experiencing and understanding the differences.

INDIA

Today India is one of the world’s largest producer of tea, with over 13,000 gardens. Most is drunk in the local market. The main regions are Assam, Darleeling and Nilgiri. Most of the quality tea from Assam and Darjeeling is exported to Europe (especially Germany) and Japan.

Assam is where Indian tea was born. Robert Bruce found the tea plant growing here in 1823.

The turbulent Brahmaputra River runs through the largest tea producing area of the world, and although Assam and Darjeeling are only 120 miles apart, they are distinctly different from each other. The average production today is 425,000 tonnes per year.

The rainfall here is very high, usually between 200 and 300 cm per year. A tropical climate, and fertile alluvial soil, makes it ideal for tea cultivation.

Picking starts in March, although the first flush is not considered the best, compared to the deep malty flavours of the second flush. Second flush starts in June and continues till September. They give a rich, smooth sweetish malty taste.

Darjeeling, nestling in the foothills of the Himalayas, produces a high-grown tea that benefits from steady rainfall, light soil and the cool atmosphere of the hills. The unique climate, good clean mountain air, well drained soil and steady rainfall produces the exquisite muscatel character and flowery aroma that earn good Darjeelings the title,’chanpagne’ of Indian teas.

First flush are usually fresh, flowery, aromatic with a hint of astringency.

Picking starts from March. Main crop Darjeeling tea, picked from April onwards.

Towards the end of the season, the Autumnal teas can be fruity and mellow.

SRI LANKA (CEYLON)

Until the 1860s, coffee was the main crop grown in Ceylon. But a fungus devastated the entire crop forced planters to the alternative, tea. The change proved very successful. In 2000 Sri Lanka produced 288,000 tonnes of tea.

The main producing areas are Rathnapura, Galle, Kandy, where the first plantations started, Dimbula, Uva, and Nuwara Eliya at elevations ranging from 1500 to 8000 ft.

The leaf is plucked all year round. January and February being the best.

Weather patterns and geographic features affect the taste thus each garden has its own distinction. The high grown teas are considered the best from Sri Lanka giving a deep golden infusion and a powerful intense flavour.

CHINA

Tea is grown in China in 16 regions- Fujian, Guangxi Zhuang, Guangdong, Anhui, Guizhou, Hainan, Henan, Hunan, Hubei,Jaingxi, Jiangsu, Sichuan, Shandong, Yunnan and Zhejiang.

In the past small plantations were tended by Buddhist monks on land around their mountain

top monasteries and because of this the Chinese have always believed that the best teas come from high mountains.

Many of Chinas teas are still made by hand and skills are passed down from generation to generation. The teas China has to offer include white, yellow, green, oolong, black, puerh and scented.

JAPAN

Today almost all tea is harvested by machine. The growing regions are all in hilly parts of the country close to rivers and streams where the climate is misty and damp where the hot sunshine is tempered by the cooler haze and mist. The winter weather brings a period of dormancy, and the harvesting begins at the end of April.

Japan grows only green tea. Gyokuro is Japan's finest green tea.

During the picking season, the gardens are kept in 90% shade for 20 days before harvesting to increase the dark green colour and flavour of the leaves.

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