Friday, April 9, 2010

Origin of the tea plant

The tea plant botanically has it origins in India.
According to Samuel Baildon, who wrote extensively on the tea industry of India in the 1870s, proposed the idea that tea was indigenous only to India.
His theory was that the plant was introduced into China and Japan from India about 1200 years ago.
He presented that there was but one species of tea, the Indian.
The smaller leaves of the China tea plant were the result of the unfavorable geologic conditions of soil, disharmonious climatic conditions and the inappropriate growing methods.
The native assamica tea plant was discovered in 1823 in China.
It was also in that year that the China plants were transfered to India.
Local Chinese legends abound with regards to how the tea plant came to China from India in ancient times.
Nonetheless, mother nature's original tea garden is said to be found in the monsoon district of South east Asia.
Specimens of the wild tea jungle are still to be found in the forests of the Shan States of northern Thailand, eastern Burma, Yunnan, upper Indo-China and India.
This is considered one primeval tea garden with prime conditions of soil, climate and rainfall that promotes the natural propagation of tea.
Tea is grown in the highlands of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, East Africa, Argentina and Brazil


Tea cultivation history


Chinese historical records indicate that the first tea cultivation began in the interior of the province of Szechwan in about A.D. 350.
The tea cultivation spread down the Yangtze valley to the seaboard provinces.

Sri Lanka


The British introduced tea cultivation to the island of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka produces mostly black teas. They are classified according to the altitude at which the plants grow (the low-grown varieties are cultivated up to 600 meters, and yield a strong, dark infusion used mostly in blends; the mid-grown from 600 to 1200 meters and the high-grown, between 1200 to 2300 meters, give the best quality).
The major producing regions are Uva and Dimbula and these include many large gardens.
The teas of Sri Lanka have an international reputation that places them among the World's greatest teas.


Taiwan


Cultivation of tea in Taiwan began in the latter half of the 19th century.
Taiwan produces both green and black teas.
It is the semi-fermented Oolongs.
Fine and delicate, with a unique, naturally fruity taste, these teas are appreciated mostly in the United States.


Japan

Japan is a special case, producing almost exclusively green teas.
97% of which are consumed locally.
The powdered Matcha tea is kept for ceremonies.
For every day use, there is Ocha, drunk as an infusion of leaves.
In addition, in decreasing order of quality, are Gyokuro, Sencha and Bancha.


China


China is one of the largest suppliers of teas.
China's current consumption of green tea is between 75% to 80 %.
The rest of the production of green teas, and all of the black teas, are exported.
Chinese teas come from five provinces.
Yunnan - is located close to the Himalaya.
Picked at high altitudes, this black tea has a rich flavor and no astringency.
Other tea-producing provinces are situated in eastern China.
The low-lying Anhui region produces Keemun,
a black tea that gives a slightly chocolaty-flavored drink.
The region also produces Chun mee and Sowmee, green teas.
Fujian and Jiangxi produce less spectacular black teas, used mostly in blends.
The Zhejiang region is reputed for its gunpowder tea.
China also produces semi-fermented teas, but they are far from equaling those made in Taiwan.

India
India is the second largest producer and exporter of tea in the world.
Most of its tea production is consumed at home.
Many varieties of tea are produced in India.
Since the country is large, the producing regionsare subject to widely varying climatic conditions.
Some plantations are situated very high, others in the plains;
some of the plants are from original Chinese stock, others are indigenous,
and still others are hybrids.
As a result, the quality of Indian tea varies considerably, and it is important
 to know an Indian tea's region of origin.
Teas from South India come from Travancore and Nilgri,
 regions of plateaus similar to those in Sri Lanka.
These teas have a pleasant, gentle beverage
with a good color but little character; they are most often combined with more robust teas.
Northern India produces tea in Darjeeling, Assam, the Doars and Terai.
The latter two regions are not well known, being situated on flatlands and producing
medium-grade teas used in blends.
On the other hand the teas of Darjeeling (or western Bengal) are considered
by some to be the best in the entire world.
These teas favor quality by fine plucking. The plantations produce low yields per hectare
(40 to 50 tons per year, or 3% of all Indian production).
The first plucking gives a very light, aromatic tea, while the second offers tea with more bite,
coppery in color, with the taste of ripe fruit.
The autumn harvest gives a tea whose aroma
and color are more highly developed but whose quality is slightly inferior.
Assam is a forested low-lying region in India's northwest, an area very difficult to clear,
but one that is among the most fertile in the country.

Africa
The British introduced tea farming to their East African colonies
 (Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania) in the 20th century.
These plantations were able to take over a good segment of the world market thanks to mechanization.
However, they did not achieve the quality of teas like Chinese Yunnan or Indian Darjeeling.
The African teas are black teas presented as broken or powdered leaves reduced to very small particles.

Vietnam


Vietnamese green teas have been largely unknown outside of mainland Asia until the present day.
Recent free-enterprise initiatives are introducing these green teas to the world.
The lotus tea is a specialty product of the Vietnamese tea industry.
Generally, high-quality green tea leaves are placed within lotus flowers
for a day to acquire the scent, then are removed and packaged.
A higher grade of lotus tea is made with lotus petals mixed in with high quality green tea leaves.








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