Tea started its globetrotting from China where it was first discovered and consumed by the Chinese Buddhist monks. Initially, tea was much of a spiritual significance as its consumption greatly helped the Buddhist monks to meditate better. Though the manufacture of tea was a closely guarded secret in China the Japanese monks managed to take black tea with them to Japan. And thus began the journey of Tea around the world with mother bushes being taken to other parts of the world. Let me take you on a tour of teas of the eight different countries which brew this marvelous beverage.
It is said a Chinese meal is not complete without the accompaniment of their famous Jasmine tea. It is a special type of tea made by infusing whole jasmine flowers with green tea, unlike the jasmine perfumed tea that is available in supermarkets. Jasmine green tea is one of the first flavored teas and is famous for its delicate flavor and sweet scent.
We move on to Japan which is famous for its ritualistic tea ceremony called ‘Chanoyu’. The most popular tea in these ceremonies, handed down from generation to generation is the Matcha tea brewed to give a vegetal taste and grassy flavor. The green teas in Japan are steamed and not roasted as in comparison to countries and as such retains a bright leafy green color.
The neighboring country Taiwan has its own signature variety of tea known as Oolong tea which is semi-fermented tea with a complex flavor. Popularly known in the region as Formosa Oolong after the former name of Taiwan, this special brew has the flavor of black tea with the body of green tea. It is said the beauty of Oolong tea can be understood only when you take a sip of Formosa Oolong. The leaves of Oolong tea are ball-shaped that unfurl into full leaves when brewed to give you a taste and flavor beyond your normal expectation.
India, our next destination, is one of the largest producers of tea in the world. It was with the initiative of the British that Tea plantation in India was first started in the Darjeeling region of West Bengal from seeds that were smuggled from China. Surprisingly tea was found to be growing wild in Assam known only to some indigenous tribes till it was discovered by a Scottish gentleman, Robert Bruce who initiated the cultivation in Assam. While the Assam tea is native to India, the Darjeeling tea has its roots in China. It is because of this reason Assam tea is strong and robust in taste while Darjeeling tea is smooth with a more delicate flavor.
Ceylon or today’s Sri Lanka who got its mother bush for growing tea from India is the island nation that is in close competition with the country in the production of black teas. The black tea produced in Sri Lanka is referred to as Ceylon Tea which is delightfully bright and tangy in taste.
From Sri Lanka, we will proceed to a Tea plantation on the coast of the Black Sea in Turkey. Tea occupies a special position in Turkish culture and the country is said to have the highest per capita consumption in the world. The most popular variety here is the Turkish Apple Tea which is traditionally served boiling hot without milk.
Kenya is another country that is in competition with India and Sri Lanka in the production of black tea. Tea was brought to Kenya by the British planters due to the availability of cheap labor and unfarmed land. Kenya mainly produces CTC tea which has a homogenous taste and is used for blending to obtain various breakfast tea flavors.
Lastly, our story would not be complete without a mention of the United Kingdom which has the largest population of tea drinkers in the world. The UK does not have plantations within but British planters have contributed tea plantations globally. Not only that, but it has also given to tea lovers the famous English Breakfast Tea which is a blend of black tea produced in India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya. English Breakfast Tea is blended to give you a full-bodied, robust, and rich taste that you love with milk and sugar.