Where It’s Grown
From the hills of India to the mountains and valleys of Kenya and China, tea is grown in some of the world’s most exotic places. Many nations are expanding their tea producing acreage to meet the rising world demand for this most popular and satisfying beverage.
Kenya stirs adventurous and romantic thoughts. Made famous by Ernest Hemingway in “The Green Hill of Africa” – it is a land most associated with the safari and big game hunting. Today, the safaris are equipped with cameras not guns. A land of great beauty and great contrast Kenya is an independent republic and belongs, like Canada, to the Commonwealth of Nations.
Situated in East Africa, astride the equator, it is bounded on the east by the Indian Ocean and has a total area of 224,960 square miles (528,646 square kilometers) and a population of over 12 million.
Kenya became independent in 1973 under the leadership of its first president, the late Jomo Kenyatta. Jomo Kenyatta also wrote a well known book entitled, Facing Mt.. Kenya (Vintage Books, N.Y., 1956). In it he discusses Kenya’s past and future. The book is named of course, for Kenya’s most famous landmark, Mt. Kenya which is snow capped the year around in spite of the fact that it is near the equator.
Tea was introduced to Kenya in 1903 by G.W.L. Canine and in the 1930′s commercial planting began. Although planting was cut back in 1933 because of a depressed market, tea is today one of Kenya’s most important cash crops.
In Kenya there are both large plantations and what are called smallholdings. Kenya is the largest producers of tea in Africa, and it has quadrupled its exports over the last decade. Tea is also one of the most important drinks in the country itself.
The Tea Board of Kenya and the Tea Research Institute work constantly to help the industry, and the returns from the industry, help the country.
India is an independent republic in southern Asia formed of union of states and territories (much as Canada is made up of ten provinces and three territories). It is a mythical, beautiful land of many religions, languages, costumes and customs and the world’s second largest nation in population.
Geographically, India is cut-off from the greater part of the Asian continent by the Himalayas, hence it is often called the Asian sub-continent. India won her independence from Britain on August 15th, 1947, and its constitutions came into effect on January 26th, 1950. India like Canada, is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Mahatma Gandhi was the most respected leader who successfully led India’s struggle for freedom through non-violent movement.
India is the largest tea producer and exporter in the world. Tea connoisseurs acclaim Darjeeling as the “champagne of teas”. Darjeeling tea has a unique muscatel flavor. The tea gardens, which produce this tea, are situated at elevations ranging from 1000 to 2000 meter above sea level. Darjeeling tea is precious and accounts for only three per cent of India’s total tea production. Because of this. Darjeeling teas fetch the highest prices at auctions and can only be produced in this particular region.
Assam is the largest tea growing region in India where impeccably pruned tea bushes cover 187000 hectares, giving an impression of a gigantic billiard table stretching to the horizon. This region abounds with wild elephants, single-horned rhinos, swamp deer, wild buffalos and leopards. Its strong pungent full bodies characterize Assam tea.
The tea gardens in Nilgiris are situated among eucalyptus trees, blue gum and cypresses. The Nilgiris are relatively mild teas which are plucked year around unlike the seasonal Assam, and Darjeeling. They are famous for their bright and brisk liquors and their mellow light clear flavors. The word “Nilgiris” when translated means the blue mountain.
China is known as the birthplace of tea, with legends of its discovery dating back five-thousand years. One legend has it that the Emperor Shen Nong discovered tea in 2737 BC while boiling water in the shade of a tree. A light breeze caused a few leaves to fall into his boiled water. A delicate and perfumed liquor was produced. The legend says that when the Emperor tasted it, he found it to be delicious. The tree that had given him this gift was a wild tea plant—tea was born.
Foreign policy and history of isolation has resulted in a unique system of garden plantations unlike the British model. Many of today’s gardens are expansions on early gardens planted in the Tang and Ming dynasty. The tea industry in China is composed of a balance of state and independent privately owned collectives.
Tea can be grown virtually anywhere in China and it is one of the few countries that produce all categories of tea—white, green, oolong, black and pu-erh. For Chinese, tea has historically been a part of their daily life, this continues today with over half of their production being consumed by China itself. Traditionally, black tea was not part of the Chinese culture, but they began to cultivate it for export markets in North America, Europe and Russia.
Other tea producing nations and regions in the world include Sri Lanka, South Asia, South East Asia, particularly Indonesia, Japan, the former Soviet Union, Turkey and Iran. Nine other countries in Africa including Tanzania, Malawi and Zaire are important producers, plus a growing market in Argentina. Many nations are expanding their tea producing acreage to meet the rising world demand for this most popular and satisfying beverage.