“Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.” ~ Catherine Douzel
More than 3,000 million tons of tea are produced every year. The leaves come from many countries. In my pantry I have mostly leaves from China, India, and Sri Lanka. But I also have a few tea bags. (I prefer loose leaves, but I keep bags around for travel or a quick herbal brew on occasion.) It’s impossible to know where the blended tea in the bags originated. Did you know that tea grows in South America? The Azores? Australia? Check out these great tea possibilities…
Ecuador — The Sangay Tea Estate is perched high in the Andes near Palora, a town built by the indigenous people who came down from the mountains to work in the tea fields. The Estate is committed to sustainable farming and is Rainforest Alliance certified. They support the local church and schools and offer training in technology and agricultural production. Most of their tea is exported to the US and Europe for blending.
Argentina — Tea needs heavy rainfall, warm days, and cool nights; the highlands of northeastern Argentina are nearly perfect. This area is home to endangered species — the golden lion tamarin monkey and the Brazilian rosewood tree — and there are thousands of acres of tea farms. Most of these teas are exported to China and the US for blending and for the production of instant tea. Several different producers in Misiones Province are Rainforest Alliance certified. Argentina also produces a large yerba mate crop. This mate is made from a plant in the holly family and is brewed in hollow gourds with metal straws called bombillas. It’s the national drink.
How to prepare mate…
The Azores — Imagine emerald mountains, hot springs, hills covered with hydrangea, and acres of tea grown hundreds of miles away from industrial pollution. San Miguel in the Azores is the only place in Europe where tea is cultivated. The first tea was produced and sold here in 1883 by the Gorreana family and they’re still in business!
Check out this gorgeous video of the Gorreana tea estate…
Nepal — Home to Mt. Everest and the Himalayas — 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world. They also grow tea at high altitude on the slopes of the Himalayas. It’s the country’s favorite drink and medicinal herb. With such high local demand, however, export is limited. You may not find Nepalese teas at your local tea shop, but you can order leaves straight from Kathmandu. Check out the offerings of Guranse Tea and the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate.
Australia — Madura Tea claims to be “one cup ahead of the rest,” and the estate has won numerous awards in Australia. Madura means “paradise” — tea is cultivated in the rainforest alongside unpolluted rivers. They are known for their Environmental Management Plan and eco-sensitive methods. Aussies love the local Earl Grey brew. At Madura Tea you can order online and browse some wonderful recipes using this “tea down under.” How does Pumpkin and Coopers Soup with Tea Braised Shitakes sound for a chilly autumn day?
An excellent guide to the world’s teas is The Tea Companion: A Connoisseur’s Guide by Jane Pettigrew.