When we hear the words, “afternoon tea,” most of us think of the very English tradition. And it has come to my attention that there is a notion that tea, itself, comes from England. While our English friends do drink copious amounts of the brewed leaf, the origins of the tea itself are as unique and varied as the tea cups in which afternoon tea is served!
Tea requires an abundance of rain and sunlight and heat, which translates to high humidity. They say (and I’ve witnessed) that when on a tea plantation, if the people are uncomfortable, the tea is happy. England, on the opposite end of the weather spectrum, is known for rain, certainly, but not sun and heat. Which leads us to the amazing roll call of countries who have these elements in abundance! The tea estates of India provide a glorious spectrum of teas, many of them black teas from the Assam and Darjeeling regions. In China, there are endless tea plantations producing black and green tea. They have names such as Dragon Well (or Long Jing) and Pi Lo Chun. Japan is known for green Senchas and matcha, the bright green powder that can be whisked to frothy perfection. Taiwan is known for its oolongs. Tea is also grown in regions of Africa and South America!
Each region has its own unique impact on the tea plants. The weather, the altitude, the insects, even the flora that grows along side the tea plants – each has its own unique and unrepeatable impact on the flavor that is ultimately delivered to your cup.
The English have given us so many tea-drinking traditions, and they pioneered much of the expansion of tea cultivation globally as a result of their colonization. But when it comes to the growing of the tea itself, you will not find it in London!
It tickles me to no end to think of the long journey these tea leaves have made from their corners of the world, and here they are now, in my cup!