“What do you do?” is probably the most common question I hear from people in the Washington DC area. When I explain that I own a tea company almost everyone asks me where my tea comes from. When I explain that all teas come from 5 main countries, people seem genuinely surprised. Being inside the business, I sometimes forget that some of the things that tea people know is not common knowledge. In light of this, here is a quick guide to the five most prestigious tea growing countries.
China is the only country that does an excellent job growing every style of tea, from Black Teas to White Teas. Maybe it has something to do with the fact they have been growing teas for 4,000 years or it could be that they are a tea drinking culture. Anyway you look at it, China produces some of the finest teas in the world.
Japan is famous for their Green Teas, which are steamed instead of roasted. This gives them a very bright flavor that has a strong “Green Tea” flavor. Japanese teas are also unique because the tea liquor is a touch brothy, a prized characteristic the Japanese refer to as Umami.
India is famous for their Black Teas, especially Assam and Darjeeling varietals. Assam Teas are known for their bold and malty flavors, while Darjeeling’s are famous for their delicacy and peach flavor notes.
Sri Lanka (or Ceylon) is known for their assertive and brisk Black Teas. Due to their popularity, they have a flavor of the characteristic “Black Tea” you may find in an English Breakfast Tea or a high-grade unflavored iced tea.
Taiwan (or Formosa) is revered for its Oolongs. Due to the climate and elevation of the tea farms, Taiwan produces some of the world’s finest Dark and Green Oolongs.
These are the “Big 5” when it comes to growing tea. Each country has its own method, climate and culture of producing teas. The best way to learn the difference is to compare similar style teas head to head. For example, Chinese, Indian and Sri Lanken Black Tea will all look similar, but you will find out that there is a vast difference in the way each one tastes.