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Friday, August 31, 2007

Tea -- Best Teas Come from Asia

Tea is produced in over thirty countries around the world, though the finest comes from just five: India, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan and Japan. Home to most of the world's tea drinkers, these countries continue to pay much attention to how tea is grown and processed. In many, tea continues to be produced by hand in accordance with age-old traditions.

is the birthplace of tea and continues to produce more intricate varieties than any other country. Prior to WWII, nearly half the world's output originated here, but now it accounts for less than ten percent, and has fallen into second place, behind India. Green teas account for almost two-third of Chinese crop. The relatively short tea season is divided into three pickings: 'first spring' in April when the delicate leaf buds appear, 'second spring' in early June when the bushes are full, and the less interesting 'third spring' in July. The most famous Chinese teas are Keemun, (black), Dragonwell (green) and Ti Kuan Yin (oolong).

is the world's largest tea producer, accounting for about a third of the world's total. However, the size of its population, and the latter's large appetite for tea, means that only about half of it is available for export. Famous growing regions include Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri, and they produce nearly all black tea. Tea continues to be cultivated on small family plots, which number close to forty thousand.

Sri Lanka
often called Ceylon - its old colonial name, is the third largest producer of tea in the world. It is a relative newcomer, growing tea for little over one hundred years. The three famous growing regions are Dimbula, Uva and Nuwara Eliya. Most of the Ceylon tea gardens are situated at elevations between 3,000 and 8,000 feet, where the hot and steamy weather makes the tea bushes flush every seven to eight days. The teas are generally classified by altitude; higher-grown generally regarded as superior.

is a sizeable producer of almost exclusively green tea. However, because it is a nation of many (and voracious) tea drinkers, only about 2 percent of Japan's crop is available for export. The most famous of teas to escape are Sencha, Genmai Cha and Gyokuro. Japan's role in the world of tea, however, is disproportionate to the size of its crop. Tea plays a very import role in this country's art, philosophy, history and daily life. World famous is its spiritual dedication to the esthetics of tea, known as the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

is often called Formosa, a name given it by Portuguese traders, meaning "beautiful island." The bulk of the tea produced here is oolong, a cross between black and green. In the early years of its economic growth, much of Taiwan's tea was exported. However, recent economic prosperity had produced a local population with a taste for what many consider to be the world's finest oolongs. Presently, only about two percent of the island's famous teas are exported. These fall into three categories: dark oolongs, jade oolongs, and the almost-green pouchong tea.


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