Tea Map – Taiwan

taiwan

 

Taiwan is a small but prized producer of tea in the world.  Taiwanese tea culture is rich in its art and ceremony, and involves calligraphy, flower arts, incense and poetry.  Tea is a valued social activity in Taiwan and there are many vibrant teahouses throughout the country.  While oolongs are especially popular in Taiwan, black teas and green teas are also becoming known.  The original tea settlers came from Fujian province in China and the earliest tea gardens were planted in the Nantou County of central Taiwan.  There are many famous tea areas in Taiwan including Pinglin, Ali Shan, Lugu, Shan Lin Xi, Li SHan, Hsinchu, Minjian and Zhu Shan.

Tea Map – Thai Nguyen

Thai-Nguyen

 

Thái Nguyên is a province in northeastern Vietnam. It is a mountainous, midland province represented by eight ethnic groups.  Thái Nguyên borders five provinces: Bac Kan to the north, Vinh Phuc and Tuyen Quang to the west, and Lang Son and Bac Giang to the east. Thái Nguyên also borders the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi to the south. Thái Nguyên is the gateway for socio-economic exchange with the Red River delta. The exchange is carried out via road, rail and waterways in the province.  Main water features include the Cong River and Nui Coc Lake.  The province is also the centre of tea industry in the country with an area of 16,000 ha (second only to Lam Dong).

Tea Map – Ha Giang

Ha-Giang

 

Hà Giang is a province in northeastern Vietnam. It is located in the far north of the country, and contains Vietnam’s northernmost point. It shares a 270 km long border with Yunnan province of southern China, hence it is known as the final frontier of Vietnam.  Hà Giang has many high rocky mountains (lime stone formations) and springs; two of its largest mountains are the Cam and Mo Neo. The major rivers of the region are the Lo River (Ha Giang town is located on its left bank) and Mien River.  The French occupied this region in 1886, establishing their military garrison on the east bank of the Lo River and which became later in 1905 one of the four major military establishments in French Indo China in North Vietnam. Ha Giang Province also has large areas of green tea, as well as many terraced rice fields. Notable tea plantations of quality tea are the Shan Tuyet strain in the Lung Phin in Dong Van District and Nam La in Yen Minh District.

Tea Map – Vietnam

vietnam

 

Vietnam is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea – referred to in Vietnam as the East Sea – to the east. With a population of over 89 million, Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world.  It is in the top ten tea producers of the world.

Vietnam has many tea areas.  The Northwest tea region includes three main provinces: Son La, Lai Chau, and Dien Bien.  The Northeast tea region includes Quang Ninh, Lang Son and Bac Giang.  The Northern midlands region includes the provinces of Thai Nguyen, Phu Tho, Hoa Binh, Ha Tay, Hanoi, Vinh Phuc. The North-central region includes Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh. The Highlands tea region includes the provinces of Lam Dong, Gia Lai, Kon Tum.

Tea Map – Ruhuna

ruhuna

 

Ruhuna is rich in history and legend. The liberating hero of the ancient chronicles, King Dutugemunu, was said to have spent his youth here, and the region has a tradition of resistance against tyrant kings and foreign invaders. Once far more thickly populated than it is now, Ruhuna has yielded relics of ancient Sinhalese civilization ranging in age from five hundred to fifteen hundred years, and the now-unpeopled jungle is dotted with the remains of centuries-old irrigation works.

the Ruhuna tea-growing district lies in what is now the Southern Province of Sri Lanka. The tea-growing terrain, coastal plain with low hills towards the interior, lies mostly in the western part of the province, within the ‘wet zone’ watered by the southwest monsoon. Eastward, the land is predominantly scrub jungle, with some areas of grassy plain and coastal salt-marsh, growing wilder and more barren as one travels eastward

Ruhuna was a latecomer to tea. It was only around 1900 that the first estates were opened up among the foothills of the central mountain massif, at a convenient distance from Galle and Matara with their road and rail connexion to the capital. At a time when most of the plantation enterprise was British-owned and -run, Ruhuna became an early bastion of the Ceylonese planting fraternity – a group that included not only ‘tea men’ but also those planting in rubber and other crops.

Tea Map – Nuwara Eliya

nuwaraeliya

 

Nuwara Eliya, meaning “city on the plain (table land)” or “city of light”, is a town in the central highlands of Sri Lanka with a picturesque landscape and temperate climate. It is located at an altitude of 1,868 m (6,128 ft) and is considered to be the most important location for Tea production in Sri Lanka. The town is overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka.  The city was founded by Samuel Baker, the discoverer of Lake Albert and the explorer of the Nile in 1846. Nuwara Eliya’s climate lent itself to becoming the prime sanctuary of the British civil servants and planters in Ceylon. Nuwara Eliya, called Little England then, was also a hill country retreat where the British colonialists could immerse in their pastimes such as polo, golf and cricket.

Tea Map – Ratnapura

ratnapura

 

Ratnapura (“City of Gems”) is the name of the provincial capital of Sabaragamuwa Province in Sri Lanka.  Some say the modern name is derived from the Portuguese name Rapadura for jaggery, the palm candy produced traditionally in this region, but the more common explanation in Sri Lanka is that it comes from the Sinhala “ratna” meaning gems and “pura” meaning city. Located some 101 km south east of Colombo, it is the center of a long-established industry of precious stone mining including rubies, sapphires, and other gems. Apart from gem mining, the town is known for tea. Tea grown in this region is called low-country tea. There is a well-established tourism industry in Ratnapura. Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Udawalawe National Park, Kitulgala, and Adam’s Peak are especially popular among tourists.

Tea Map – Sri Lanka

sri-lanka

 

Sri Lanka (also known as Ceylon in the tea trade) is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies off the South Eastern tip of India.  Known for its black teas, Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth largest producer of tea.  The tea industry is one of the country’s main sources of foreign exchange with tea accounting for 15% of the GDP.  The humidity, cool temperatures, and rainfall in Sri Lanka’s central highlands provide a climate that favors a very high quality tea. The industry was introduced to the country in 1867 by James Taylor, the British planter who arrived in 1852.  The different tea areas in Sri Lanka are Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula, Kandy Uda Pussellawa, and the Uva and Southern Provinces.

Tea Map – Ningde

Ningde

 

Ningde, also known as Mindong is a prefecture-level city located along the northeastern coast of Fujian province, China. It borders Fuzhou to the south, Wenzhou City and Zhejiang province to the north, and Nanping City to the west. Ningde has been undergoing a revival of its tea gardens. We work with an organic producer who is very passionate about their green teas, which have a much more delicate flavor profile than the neighboring Zhejiang teas.

Tea Map – Zhenghe, Fujian

Zhenghe

 

Zhenghe, a small town in Nanping County of Fujian, is named after Zheng He (1371–1433), who was a Hui-Chinese mariner, explorer, diplomat and fleet admiral that commanded voyages to Southeast Asia, Middle East, and East Africa.  The area is credited as the original place for Bai Mudan (White Peony) and Baihao Yinzhen (Silver Needles) white teas.  Nearby is Fuding, the other prominent white tea producing area in Fujian.

Tea Map – Jingmai, Yunnan

Jingmaimountains

 

The Jingmai Manjing Mountains are located in southern Yunnan, a few hours north of Xishuangbanna.  The people of the area belong to the Bulang tribe and practice mostly Hinayana Buddhism.  The homes are wooden and of stilt architecture and sloping roof style.  Tea is a huge part of the culture and economy of the region.  Puer, green and limited white teas are produced here.

The scenic Jingmai area has gained much popularity over the last few years, as well as some controversy due to its development.  The provincial government has made a considerable investment into the region, putting in new roads and building visitor’s tea culture centers to attract tourism, which could be compared to America’s Napa Valley wine tourism region.  Jingmai remains very beautiful, with cobblestone roads winding through high mountain villages from which one can look down at the clouds and mist hovering in the valleys.  There are many small tea farms, including some individual households, as well as a few professional, organic, more commercial processors.

While Jingmai has undergone development, it also contains a lush undeveloped tea forest, wherein many plants are several hundred years old.  At one point, the government wished to remove the tea forest in favor of younger plants that produce a higher yield.

We work with a tea grower named Mr. Tsai who we believe has been an instrumental figure in stopping the destruction of the old growth forest.  He moved from Taiwan, where he had been crafting tea for many years, and leased part of the old growth forest.  His move from Taiwan into the area was not without controversy and skepticism among the locals, although we have come to have a positive perspective on his work and its influence on this forested area and the organic teas there, which have steadily risen in popularity.  Locals continue to have access to the trees, which they can pluck and sell either to Mr. Tsai or to the tea crafter of their choice.

Mr. Tsai himself is very involved in the harvesting and crafting process, working directly with the tea, with help from a few assistants.  He has brought with him some tea crafting methods that are unique in the area.  Back in Hsinchu, Taiwan, for example, he had been a cultivator of Dong Fen Mei Ren (Oriental Beauty), which is made by a process that allows grasshoppers to bite the leaf and begin the oxidation process before the leaf is even plucked.  He now makes Dong Fen Mei Ren in Jingmai, which is rare for this region and has a very lovely, honey-sweet and fruity flavor profile.  In our 14+ relationship with Mr. Tsai, he has crafted some teas specially for the Tao of Tea.

Tea Map – Cangyuan, Yunnan

cangyuan

 

Cangyuan Va Autonomous County is located in Lincang Prefecture, Yunnan, China. At 1800 m above sea level, Cangyuan is a remote region in western Yunnan, only 5km from the Myanmar border.  Our grower has been propagating tea at this garden for about twelve years. It takes many hours, through a narrow, mountainous road to reach Cangyuan from the nearest city.   Due to the remote location, it is usually difficult to find seasonal tea pickers and thus the tea plants have developed a slightly ‘wild-grown’ character, which we like. Older tea plants produce less yield but significantly better flavor profiles.  We have also found that teas from this area have a pronounced smooth, buttery characteristic than other areas of Yunnan. Our sourcing trip to Cangyuan in spring 2011 resulted in many new teas to our offering.

Tea Map – Xishuangbanna, Yunnan

Xishuangbanna

 

Xishuangbanna is a prefecture in Yunnan Province, China. The capital city is Jingjong, the largest settlement in the area and one that straddles the Mekong River (Lancang River in Chinese).  The six famous tea mountains region located in the prefecture produce some of the most highly regarded Pu-erh tea in the 20th century.

Xishuangbanna is also considered one of the most bio-diverse and ethnically rich areas of China.  It has a lot of natural areas, historical and cultural resources, and is noted for its folklore, rain forests, rare plants and wildlife. Its major tourist attractions include Menglun Tropical Botanical Garden, Manfeilong Pagodas (Tanuozhuanglong), Jingzhen Pavilion, Wild Elephant Gully, Dai people’s village at Ganlanba.

The well-known traditional festival is the ethnic Dai’s Water-Splashing Festival. It lasts for three days from April 13 to 15. Besides the water festival event it also consists of some other events such as Dragon boat races, firing of indigenous missiles, flying Kongming Lamps.

We have made several sourcing trips to this region over the years and have now established strong friendships with old growth tea forest communities.  This area is the heart of Puer teas.  All kinds of Puers – Sheng, Shou, Rounds cakes and bricks – can be found in this area.  Some of the most notable tea mountains Xishuangbanna include Banzhang, Nannuo, Ailao, Mansa, Bangwei and Mengsong.  It is also near the popular town on Menghai, known for its processing factories.

Tea Map – Anhui

anhui

Anhui province is located in eastern China across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River. It borders Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a tiny section in the north. The capital of the province is Hefei.
Anhui is famous for its Keemun black teas originating from Qimen county, its green tea from Huanshan Mountains, Taiping Hou Kui (Monkey King) and Mao Feng (Fur Peak) teas.

Tea Map – Hunan

hunan

 

Hunan is a province of South-Central China, located to the south of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting (hence the name Hunan, meaning “south of the lake”). Hunan is sometimes called “Xiang” for short, after the Xiang River which runs through the province.  It borders Hubei to the north, Jiangxi to the east, Guangdong to the south, Guangxi to the southwest, and Guizhou to the west. The capital is Changsha.

Hunan has a long history of tea production in China and is one of its largest producers. Some of the famous teas from Hunan are: Junshan Yinzhen (silver needles), Maojian, Dark black brick tea and Huang Ya (Yellow tea).  Famous tea areas in Hunan include:  Dongting Lake, Heng Mountain and Shao Mountain.  In sourcing teas from Hunan, our aim has been to find leaf that has exceptional down (a leaf characteristic that gives the brew a buttery texture).

Tea Map – Guangxi

Guanxi

Guangxi, is a province of southern China along the border with Vietnam. In 1958, it became the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, a region with special privileges for the Zhuang people.

Guangxi’s location, in mountainous terrain in the far south of China, has placed it on the frontier of Chinese civilization throughout much of China’s history. The current name “Guang” means “expanse” and has been associated with the region since the creation of Guang Prefecture in AD 226. It was given provincial level status during the Yuan Dynasty, but even into the 20th century it was considered an open, wild territory.

Guangxi is considered the home for Chinese Jasmine.  Famous teas from Guangxi include: Liubao, Guiping Xishan Tea, Lingyun Baimao, Tantang Maojian, Bainiu, Guilin Maojian and Guihua (osmanthus blossom).

Tea Map – Jiangsu

Jiangsu

Jiangsu province in China is located along the east coast of the country. The name Jiangsu is a contraction of two of its major cities: jiang, short for the city of Jiangning (now Nanjing), and su, for the city of Suzhou.  The city of Suzhou in Jiangsu has a special connection to the Tao of Tea teahouse in the Portland’s Chinese Garden.  Architects from Suzhou helped to design the garden, which is full of beautiful limestone rocks from Suzhou’s Lake Tai.

Jiangsu is known for its Purple Clayware teapots, also known as Yixing teapots, and for its Biluochun tea.  Biluochun — also called “jade spiral spring” — is a small leaf green tea that uses only the new leaf buds of the tea plant and is roasted in such a way that maintains the leaves’ white down fuzz.  Rather than pouring water directly onto the leaf, Biluochun is meant to be prepared by putting the leaf into boiled water and watching it spiral downward as it brews.  We are working on sourcing Bilouchun for next spring. See Bilouchun being pan roasted here: http://vimeo.com/90279633

Tea Map – Phoenix, Guandong

phoenix

The Phoenix (Feng Huang) mountains in eastern Guangdong province are home to some of the most sought after teas in China — particularly of the oolong style, which in this region is made using a light, sideways rolling technique, rather than tight ball-rolling.  The Phoenix mountains are spread over a large area and the tea can vary significantly depending on elevation, age of the plant, and varietal.  There are at least ten different Phoenix tea plant varietals.  The region also produces other styles of tea besides oolong, such as red tea and puer.

 

The most prized teas in the region are those that grow at the highest elevation where plants thrive in the dewy mist that covers the mountainside.  One of the highest mountains in the region is Wudang, which is said to have some of the oldest tea plants.  The area is somewhat barricaded and difficult to access.  Family caretakers look after the ancient plants.  There are many tea farms in the surrounding areas that are more accessible and still of great quality.  Locals to this region will tell you that tea originated in the Phoenix Mountains before being brought to Fujian (of course, those in Fujian claim that their home is the origin of tea in China).

Tea Map – Wuyishan

wuyishan

 

The Wuyi Mountains are a mountain range located in the prefecture of Nanping in the Fujian province near the border with Jiangxi province.  The mountains cover an area of 60 km². In 1999, Mount Wuyi entered a list of World Heritage Sites, both natural and cultural. It is a biodiversity conservation zone of Southeast China.

 

Tao of Tea has a relationship with a 2nd generation tea grower on Tong Mu Mountain in Wuyishan which began in 2006.  This craftsman, named Haong, runs a small, clean operation, which he inherited from his father, and is working toward improving agricultural standards in his area.  He is also well-connected with other farmers in the region, and therefore has been able to access rare teas for us from time to time.

 

Tong Mu is famous for its Lapsong Souchong smoked black tea.  It is also known for Jin Jun Mei, a delicious small leaf red tea with golden tips.  It is important to seek a reliable source for Jin Jun Mei, as there are many counterfeit teas on the market.

Tea Map – Zhejiang

zhejiang

 

Zhejiang is an eastern coastal province of China. Zhejiang means crooked river and was the old name of the Qiantang River, which passes through the provincial capital, Hangzhou. Zhejiang borders Jiangsu province and Shanghai municipality to the north, Anhui province to the northwest, Jiangxi province to the west, and Fujian province to the south; to the east is the East China Sea.

 

Zhejiang Province is the largest producer of green tea in the world.  It is famous for its gunpowder tea — a tea that is tightly and uniformly rolled and is sometimes mixed with other herbs such as Moroccan and Russian mint, and served both hot and iced.  Zhejiang is also home to one of the most famous green teas in China: Long Jing, or Dragonwell.  Leaves are hand roasted in woks and, with careful movements of the pan, leaves develop a flat, shiny, jade colored appearance.

Tea Map – China

Chinabasemap

 

China is often considered to be the origin of tea.  Camellia Sinensis trees are native to the country and the Chinese have been cultivating the plant for thousands of years.  Legend says that tea was first discovered by the Emporer Shennong in 2737 BCE when a leaf from a tree overhead fell into a pot of boiling water.  This long history of cultivating tea has allowed Chinese craftsmanship to become highly sophisticated over time.  There are a great many teas coming out of China — white, green, oolong, black (red), and puer — and each region has specialized production methods.

 

We source our teas from the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Guangxi, Hunan, Anhui, Yunnan and Fujian; also from the famous mountain regions and communities of Wuyishan, Phoenix, Jingmai, Cangyuan, Xishuangbanna, Zhenghe, Anxi and Ningde.

 

Tea Map – Mirik

mirik

 

The town of Mirik (meaning “place burnt by fire”) is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, not far from the major growing region of Darjeeling and also in close proximity to Nepal.  Mirik has a number of tea gardens that use the “China-Jaat” varietal of tea plant, which is highly sought after by many tea merchants.  It differs from the big-leaf Camellia Assamica varietal of other Indian regions by being more flowery in aroma.