Tea Producing Regions of the World - China - 29/09/2010

China - Plucking new leaf shoots - Picture courtesy of Jane PettigrewLegend says that China discovered tea in approximately 2737 BC and has been producing and drinking tea since then. Today 17 provinces in the southern half of the country produce white, green, yellow, oolong, black, puerh, and flavoured teas (perfumed with rose petals, jasmine blossoms, osmanthus flowers, orchids and lychees). Fujian province is famous for its white, oolong, jasmine and smoky black Lapsang Souchong teas; Zhejiang province is important for the production of Long Jing (Dragon Well) and gunpowder green teas; Anhui province makes black Keemun teas; and Yunnan province is best known for its aged puerh teas.

China - Manufacturing tea by hand - Picture courtesy of Jane PettigrewProduction is both very small scale, with teas being produced in domestic kitchens and small manufacturing units, as well as much larger scale in bigger factories. With China’s increasing wealth, more and more private money is now being invested in modern factories that are equipped with mechanised processing equipment and in some places, automation is already replacing the highly-skilled traditional hand-manufacturing methods of the past.

 

China - Tea bushes in the Fujian Province - Picture courtesy of Jane PettigrewThe finest Chinese teas are grown on the steep slopes of high mountains and, since tea is such an important crop for both domestic consumption and for export, the most famous of those mountains are revered and respected by the people.

As is the case for all countries that do not lie directly on or near the equator, China is seasonal and spring is an extremely important time of the year for the tea farmers. During the winter months, the evergreen tea bushes lie dormant but with the arrival of the first spring rains and slightly higher temperatures, the first new leaf buds appear in late March and early April. They develop very slowly in the chilly temperatures and concentrate flavour, quality and beneficial antioxidants into the tiny tender leaves. The spring crop gives the best and the most expensive of all the teas that are plucked by hand throughout the season, which lasts until the growth on the bushes slows down again in September or October.

Whereas teas from most other countries are sold through tea auctions as well as by private contract, China does not have tea auctions and relies on wholesalers, agents and co-operatives to get their teas out into the world market.

 

Produced by: Jane Pettigrew
For more information, please visit www.janepettigrew.com
Date: Tuesday, 28th September 2010