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What are the Origin Countries of Tea?

Tea has been consumed for over 5,000 years. History credits legendary Emperor Shen Nung (2696 BC) of China for finding and reporting the power of #tea to awaken the mind, body, and spirit.

This leader of an ancient clan would venture out into the wild, cataloging all the wonderful herbs he came across. Shen Nung is said to be the father of Chinese medicine and agriculture. Because of this, China is considered by many to be the birthplace of tea. Today, we classify five countries as the traditional country of origin of tea: China, Taiwan (Formosa), Japan, India, and Sri Lanka (Ceylon).

Tea in China is referred to as Cha.


Taiwan, formerly known as the island of Formosa, started cultivating tea bushes about 200 years ago. Chinese tea makers emigrated to Taiwan from the Fujian Province of China and found the soil, climate, and landscape perfect for growing tea. The tea bushes flush about five times per year from April to December. Taiwan is known mostly for its exquisite oolong teas like Bao Zhong (Jade Pouchong), Ali Shan, Jade Oolong, Amber Oolong, Tung Ting, Dong Fang Mei Ren (Oriental Beauty), and Milk Oolong.

• Try this Bao Zhong from Rishi Tea.


Japanese Buddhist monks in the 9th century were the first to drink tea, having learned about it during envoys to China. In 1191, Zen Priest Elsai brought seeds back to Kyoto which became the basis for Uji tea. Soon after, tea cultivation spread throughout Japan’s prefectures. In the early days, tea was produced by hand; over the centuries, Japanese engineers were able to create great machines to mimic that hand movement. Today, only special and expensive teas are produced by hand. Japanese teas are mostly steamed, not pan-fired like Chinese teas; thus, these teas are more emerald in color and offer a more brothy seashore cup. Japan is most known for its umami-rich green teas such as Gyokuro, Matcha, Kukicha, Karigane, Sencha, Bancha, Hojicha, and Gen Mai Cha.

• Try this Enrich Matcha Genmaicha from Sugimoto Tea.


In the late eighteenth century, a larger leaf varietal of Camellia sinensis was found in northern India. It took botanists over 50 years before this new tea plant, Camellia sinensis assamica, was successfully cultivated.

Today, India is one of the world’s largest tea producers, with billions of pounds harvested yearly. There are over 10,000 estates producing tea in India, with about 80% of the tea produced using the CTC method. There are four basic regions where tea is produced: Assam, Darjeeling, Sikkim, and Nilgiri.

India is most known for its amazing black teas; however, each region produces an entirely different cup character.

  • Assam teas are known for their maltiness and are used in most breakfast tea blends.

  • Darjeeling teas are known for their leaf appearances of both green and brown. Darjeeling is nestled among the foothills of the Himalayas, and typically has only four flushes (First, Second, Monsoon, Autumnal), with each having its own cup character.

  • Sikkim only has one estate, Temi, established in 1969. These teas are similar to those of Darjeeling but are fruitier and tend to have more body.

  • Lastly, Nilgiri, far to the south, in the Blue Mountains, produces a more balanced cup of black tea perfect for making iced tea.

The spiced drink, Chai, which has become popular in America, was first produced in India. However, Chai is simply Hindi for tea. In India the tea is correctly called Masala Chai. In the US when we ask for Chai Tea, we are literally asking for Tea Tea!

• Try this Darjeeling First Flush Tumsong EX1 from Rishi Tea.

• Try this Chai Tea from Lake Missoula Tea.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka (Ceylon) was a coffee-producing country until the 1860s, when a coffee rust fungus wiped out most of the crops, forcing growers to find new products to cultivate. The first English tea factories were established in the early 1870s due to the success of a Scotsman, James Taylor, who in the late 1860s successfully produced black tea following the traditions of India. Today, huge tea plantations are spread among seven growing regions: Ruhuna, Kandy, Sabaragamuwa, Dimbula, Uva, Uda Pussellawa and Nuwara Eliya.

Sri Lanka produces tea year-round, with new flushes arriving about every 80 days due to the island's location. Sri Lanka is best known for its wonderful black teas of all grades, using both orthodox and CTC processing methods.

• Try this Sri Lankan Black from Lake Missoula Tea.


China is home to all six of the major tea types produced: White, Green, Yellow, Oolong, Black, and Dark (often referred to as Pu-erh). Tea is produced in eighteen different regions throughout China, each producing various tea types with varying cup characteristics. Tea in China is referred to as Cha.

There are many famous teas produced in China. Below is a list of the more popular Chinese teas found in the United States. The teas are first listed with their more common American name and followed by their more traditional Chinese name in parentheses.

  • White Tea: Silver Needle (Bai Hao Yin Zhen), White Peony (Bai Mu Dan)

  • Green Tea: Green Snail Spring (Pi Lo Chun), Yellow Mountain Hair Peak (Huangshan Maofeng), Dragonwell (Lung Ching), Misty Mountain (Mao Jian), Gunpowder (Zhucha), Precious Eyebrows (Chun Mei), Lucky Dragon (Young Hyson), Spring Green (Guo Lu), Jasmine Scented

  • Yellow Tea: Jun Mountain Silver Needle (Jun Shan Yin Zhen), Yellow Buds (Meng Ding Huang Ya)

  • Oolong Tea: Phoenix Oolong, Big Red Robe (Da Hong Pao), Pure Fragrance Oolong (Qing Xiang Dan Cong), Chinese Cinnamon (Ro Gui), Iron Goddess of Mercy (Ti Kuan Yin), Ginseng Oolong, Osmanthus Oolong

  • Black Tea: Golden Monkey (Tan Yang Gong Fu), Keemun (Qimen), Yunnan (Dianhong), Lapsang Souchong (Zengshan Xiaozhong), Bohea Lapsang (Wuyi Lapsang), Orchid Black (Lanxiang), Rose Black (Meigui Hongcha), Lychee Black

  • Dark Tea:

    • Type of Aging: Traditionally Aged or Raw (Qing Cha or Sheng Cha), Cooked or Artificially Aged or Ripe (Shou Cha or Wo Dui Cha), Rough Tea Before Aging (Mao Cha)

    • Shape: Loose, Cake (Beeng Cha), Birds Nest (Tuo Cha), Brick (Zhuan Cha), Square (Fang Cha), Mushroom (Jin Cha), Melon (Jin Gua), Dragon Pearl (Long Zhu)

    • Region: Pu-erh from Yunnan or Dark Tea from Hunan and Guangdong

    • Misc: Various display teas, also referred to as flowering teas, are made from all different tea types.

• Try this Dragonwell Green Tea from TeaSource.

Thirsty for more?

The #teaexperts at Hula Consulting can help with sourcing teas, flavorings, and ingredients for your #tea line or #teacompany. Email or call 561.600.7025 to discuss how we can help your #teabusiness.

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