Tag Archives: China

WHICH COUNTRIES ARE THE TOP PRODUCERS OF TEA? (Part 1)

By Yvonne Blackwood~

There was a time when the most popular drink in the world (after water) was coffee. This is no longer the case. Now King Tea reigns supreme! According to Tea Association of the USA and an article in National Geographic (2016) tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water.

chinese-tea-pot

Bearing this fact in mind one must ask, why has tea become so popular? There is a very intricate and detailed answer to this question which I will address in a future blog. For now, though, I will mention that one reason is that tea is one of the few beverages usually served hot or cold, and is served anytime and anywhere. In fact it is served on almost any occasion. Statistics show that on any given day, more than 158 million Americans drink tea, consuming well over 80 billion servings, or more than 3.6 billion gallons. When you factor in the rest of the world including China and Japan where tea is their national drink, we begin to see why tea now reigns.

First, we must define what we mean by tea. Tea it a beverage brewed strictly from the tender leafs of the Camellia sinensis plant. Depending on how the tea leaves are processed, the beverage produce can be either white, green, Oolong or black tea. Tea brewed from any other plant is really herbal tea or tisane; I will cover this in another article.

The second important question is, which countries are the top tea producers? According to World Atlas, in 2016 the top five rankings are China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey respectively. In this article, I will deal with the first two, and cover Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey in a subsequent article.

The camellia sinensis plant is native to Southern China and South East Asia. It is small wonder then that these areas are the top producers and that China is number one. Tea made from the camellia sinensis was developed in China about 2000 years ago, but become widespread about 1000 years ago. Tea is produced in large areas covering the South Eastern part of China from Shanxi to Yunnan and Guangdon in the extreme south. These provinces have climate that is humid and ranges from tropical to subtropical.  The varying geographic locations and climate, produces various kinds of teas. China currently produces just over a million tonnes of tea. 

 India is the number two tea producer. There is an interesting story about how tea came to be grown in India. As we know, Britain was once India’s colonial master. In an effort to break the Chinese monopoly on tea, Britain introduced the plant into India using the Chinese varieties of seeds and employing their planting methods. They also offered land in the Assam region to any European who agreed to plant tea for export. Now that India is the number two tea producer in the world, it is fair to say that Britain succeeded in that quest!

Tea plantation, Kerala, India
Tea plantation, Kerala, India

In the early 1800s after tea plantations were established in India, only Anglicized Indians drank tea, but by the early 1900s, tea became popular with the natives. India now produces some very well-known teas such as Assam and Darjeeling which are grown exclusively there. Over 70 percent of India’s tea is consumed within the country.

The main tea-producing states in India are: Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Sikkim, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Bihar, and Orissa.

Tell us about your favourite tea?

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FOR ALL THE TEA IN CHINA!

Chinese teas
I cannot recall how or when the idea came to me, but several years ago a strong conviction welled up within me, a conviction that I must set foot on every continent on earth—all except Antarctica—that virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass. After all, I’m a hot-blooded, sun-loving, kind-of-a-gal. While no doubt many will find Antarctica fascinating, I’m unable to justify the expense to explore such a cold place, hence the decision to leave it alone.

My goal then, was to visit all the continents while still strong and healthy. Unlike Phileas Fogg in the Jules Verne novel, I had no plans to accomplish my quest in eighty days! In fact, I planned to work at achieving it for as long as it took, while savouring every journey, and learning as much as I could about each country that I visited.

Although I continue to travel each year, my main mission has been accomplished. In this blog I’ll share an anecdote about a tea ceremony I attended in China. On this visit I spent my time in Beijing and toured with a group. An amazing city with over fifteen million people then, Beijing has many historical places.

Our tour guide was Emma, a beautiful university student, educated and obviously well instructed in how to talk to tourists about her country. She reeled off information about the history and geography of China like an encyclopedia, and shared several stories with us which gave us good insight into the culture and politics of China. Emma did not shy away from talking about the “One-child-policy” existing at the time, and I was quite surprised to learn that it did not apply to everyone (a good thing!). For example, people with doctoral degrees could have more than one child, and so could farmers.

We toured most of the regular tourists spots—the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, The Summer Palace, and climbed the Badaling Great Wall—to name a few. Emma also made sure we experienced “real” Chinese culture. And what better way to do this than with tea? After all, tea originated in Southern China and South East Asia some 2000 years ago. With such a lengthy tea history, I needed no convincing that the Chinese people are pretty good at brewing tea, but I wanted to witness the process. Emma took us to a tea shop so that we could not only see, but participate in a tea ceremony.

Sitting in the tea shop surrounded by exquisite containers of tea in every colour, shape, and size, inhaling the varied aromas of tea, and listening and watching a Chinese woman perform the ritual of the ceremony is something I have never forgotten.

The water used to brew the tea had to be at a perfect temperature. To test the water the woman used a pee-pee boy! So what is a pee-pee boy you ask? It’s a tiny plastic (or some other material) figurine of a nude man/boy with an oversize penis! The woman poured hot water over “him” and when the temperature was right, water squirted out of the penis—he pee-peed! Our group roared with laughter when the boy pee-peed. After all the shenanigans took place, we sat back, relaxed and enjoyed two different types of teas that day—a green tea and a rose-bud tea.
Pee-pee boy
It was fascinating to watch the minute rose-buds—no bigger than thumb-tacks—expand until they became the size of a small rose. As the buds expanded they exuded an incredible aroma which enveloped the room.

When we left the tea shop most of us were loaded down with boxes and cans of teas and dozens of pee-pee boys to give our friends as souvenirs of China.

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