Other tea growing countries
Tea from Asia
Sumatra and Java have been producing tea since the beginning of the 19th century, using plants from Assam. Indonesia is the fifth largest producer in the world and its teas are full bodied, round and fairly suited to the addition of milk, especially in the case of broken leaves.
Vietnam was an important tea producer before the war and has started to grow tea again in the last few years, mainly on the high lands. At the present time it is the 18th producer of tea in the world.
Malaysia is a small producer and its teas are black and not very full-bodied.
This small Himalayan state produces a fine and aromatic tea that is a close cousin of the best Darjeelings, to which it is also geographically close.
Close to Assam, Bangladeshi tea grows in the north of the country, near the border with India. Highly coloured and aromatic, it can be taken with a little milk.
From the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea
Tea arrived in this region via different routes and was at first a commodity imported from far away, long before it began to be grown at home. It was the Mongols and the merchants of the Silk Route that introduced tea to the Russians, the Turks, the Persians as well as the peoples of Kirghistan, Turkmenistan, Ouzbekistan… Towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the numerous attempts to grow tea plants in the area became successful in the mountains between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.
Iran, Turkey and the CIS, who specialize in the preparation of black tea in a samovar, produce tea mainly for their own consumption. The former USSR was, at one time, the fifth largest producer in the world. We must be careful not to confuse teas from this country, sometimes categorized as "Russian style" teas because of their use in the samovar, with the "Russian taste" label given to some blends of Chinese black teas, scented or not, which were made popular by the Russian court at the end of the 19th century.
As in many countries in this region, the drinking of tea pre-dates its cultivation, and it was in the 16th century that the beverage was introduced to the Ottoman court. As far as cultivation was concerned, it started in the 1920s, using seeds from the Soviet Union. The plantations cover the south shores of the Black Sea between Rize and Trabzon and are often small in size where a more collective style of farming is practised. Turkey is the sixth largest tea producer in the world and its output is self-sufficient with small-scale export. Powerful and fragrant, Turkish tea is infused separately in a teapot placed over a kettle of constantly boiling water. The concentrated tea is then poured into small glasses, followed by the water to dilute as required: açik çay is weak tea, koyu or demli for strong tea. Finally, each person adds sugar according to taste.
One of the few countries, along with Japan, to have mechanized tea plucking, Georgia is one of the smaller tea producing nations. The tea plants, grown along the banks of the Black Sea, were chosen for their hardiness and are particularly resistant to cold: the Georgian plantations are some of the most northerly on the planet and winters there are harsher than on any other plantations. While this country's teas cannot be compared to the great classic teas, there are nonetheless some good black teas for drinking throughout the day.
Tea drinking in Iran dates back to the end of the 15th century. It owes its development to the difficulty of importing coffee, which was greatly enjoyed at the time but very hard to obtain from the producing countries. Taking the same route as the Silk Route, tea gradually began to replace coffee in the preferences and customs of the Mongols.
It was not until the end of the 19th century that the first attempt was made to cultivate the tea plant and not until the beginning of the 20th that the first crop of Iranian tea was sold on the local market. Plantations then developed rapidly in the province of Gilan, located between the south shore of the Caspian Sea and the Elbourz Mountains. From 1920 onwards, production underwent a real boom. Today Iran is the eighth largest producer in the world and consumes almost its entire output of tea.
Tea from Africa
The introduction of tea to Africa goes back to the end of the 19th century. It first originated in South Africa where the English started its cultivation to secure new sources of supply. Then, German settlers experimented with its cultivation on the slopes of Mount Cameroon and in Tanzania. Throughout the 20th century numerous countries began to grow tea, and today, the African continent is an important player in the world tea market.
The teas are produced either by using traditional methods, giving either broken or whole leaf teas, or equally they are produced by CTC, "crushing, tearing, curling", a mechanical process that transforms the tea leaf into tiny pearls mainly for teabags. Today a dozen African countries produce black tea, of an uneven quality depending on its origin, and Le Palais des Thés experts have decided to only buy the product from some of them.
Kenya is the fourth largest producer in the world today, contributing to 8% of the total production. Almost all the teas from the country are CTC teas with the exception of the Marynin garden which has kept its traditional processing methods.
La production du Rwanda est tout à fait mineure, rapportée à l'échelle mondiale, mais ce pays propose quelques thés de qualité très intéressante.
Mauritius, which is close to Reunion, produces various teas, the most famous of which is appreciated for its vanilla taste.
Native to South Africa, the Aspalathus linearis, or Rooibos bush as it is commonly known, is a different plant from the tea plant, which gives a pleasant beverage with no caffeine and almost no tannin.
Tea from South America
The teas of South America cannot pretend to compete with the great teas of India or Sri Lanka, even if they share similar characteristics. They are completely unknown to European consumers and are still to be discovered.
The eleventh producer in the world, Argentina has been growing tea for the last sixty years or so. Almost all the plantations are to be found along the border with Brazil in the Misiones region.
Mate does not come from tea plants but from a plant native to South America, which is very high in caffeine. It is also called "Jesuits' tea".
A minor producer, Brazil offers a few broken leaf teas.