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.
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!
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?