Where Does Tea Leaves Come From? Answer Explained

It’s said that great conversations are always accompanied by a cup of tea. But where does tea leaves come from? We’ll we’ve been up the same query for a while now! 

You might be shocked to learn that aromatic beverage is a blend of various cultures.

Tea leaves come from various countries like India, China and Srilanka. Although tea cultivation was made popular by the British, the earliest known traces date back to china. Today, tea leaves are grown following four phases. They are withered, rolled, oxidized, and then dried.

If that interests you, you’ll love what we have in store for you. So let’s jump right in.

 

Where does tea leaves come from?

If you searched up this article, then you must’ve at least once mused on the history behind the warm tea you’re holding.

How did it become so popular that it’s comes only after water as the most consumed drink?

After all, tea today is considered to be an emotion. Whether you plan to curl up with your favorite book on a rainy day or opt for a cozy balcony date; tea is the ultimate solution.

Coming to the main question, where does tea leaves come from?

It’s a common fact that there are plenty of variations of tea. The most famous ones being black tea and green tea.. But do these come from different kinds of plants? Read below to find out. 

 

What plant does tea come from?

You’d be surprised to know that mostly Camellia Sinensis is the plant that most of the tea is sourced from. The different types of teas that we enjoy come from different breeds of this magic plant. 

Depending on the height and weather conditions, the breeds differ in taste and color. That’s the reason why you’ll get to find such a variety of blends of tea on your supermarket shelf.

Ever wondered which country these varieties of tea came from? Well, you don’t have to anymore. Here’s a list of some of the largest producers of tea, as of today.

 

Do tea leaves come from a tree?

Now if you have trouble visualising a tea plant, let us tell you that it doesn’t come from a tree. 

The tea plant, Camellia Sinensis is responsible for almost all the different types of tea that we enjoy today. If you’ve never seen one, we recommend you to visit a local tea garden.

That’d give you a clear picture on the idea. Moreover, you could bring back some superb quality tea.

 

Who Are The Biggest Producers of Tea in the world?

1. China

China is the country that produces the most tea in the globe. Moreover, you could say that drinking tea is ingrained in their blood. That’s because it plays a huge role in chinese culture and their daily life.

Fun fact: did you know that white tea is a chinese drink ? 

Not only that, China is also a major producer of green, black, and oolong tea.  

2. India

India is the second-largest producer of tea, thanks to it’s warm and humid climate. If you’re an avid tea drinker, you’re definitely familiar with Darjeeling tea. 

Did you know that it comes from India? Another popular Indian tea comes from Assam. Indian people love to drink tea or locally known as “chai”.

That’s why, Indians consume half of the tea manufactured in their own country. We’re talking about a whopping 6 hundred thousand tons! That’s how much Indians love tea. 

3. Kenya 

Third, on the list comes Kenya. Although Kenya may not come in your sight as a significant tea-producing country, this country produces almost 4 hundred thousand tons of tea. 

Moreover, they are the largest exporter of black tea in the world! In Kenya, tea plantation is a part of people’s livelihood and thus, part of their economy.

Now that we’ve looked at the major producers of tea in the world, let’s look at the history and origin behind tea.

 

Where do tea leaves originate from?

Now, what image comes to your mind when you think of tea? If you thought of British tea parties, you’re not the only one.

But you may be surprised to know that the origin of tea can be traced back to medieval China!

 

The legend of how tea was discovered

 

Here’s a fun story for you. Legends dating back to 2737 BC say that an ancient emperor Shen Nung came across a Camellia sinensis plant. 

Usually, the emperor liked drinking his water after boiling it due to its purifying properties. 

One fine day, the emperor was traveling to a distant region. When his troops took refuge under a tea, the emperor asked to drink some water. As his servant boiled water for him, a tea leaf blew in his cup and diffused into the water.

 

The servant didn’t notice this and served it to the emperor anyway. The emperor Shen Nung liked it so much that he spread the word and the world discovered tea!

Now although there are debates on the authenticity of this legend, it’s still a fun story that might be true!

Now let’s look at some factors that are important in growing and harvesting tea plants. Who knows? Maybe you’ll take inspiration and start your own tea plantation someday!

 

How are tea leaves grown?

Snapping out of storytime, let’s come back to modern life. If you have a green thumb and are interested in knowing how tea leaves are grown, this section has your name written all over it.

 

Depending on the kind of tea you’re talking about, they’re harvested 2-4 times a year. Tea leaves are accumulated in baskets, and then sent to a factory.

You may have noticed that tea factories are placed near tea plantations. This is to control the oxidation that takes place. There are four stages when it comes to growing and harvesting tea. Let’s take a look.

Stage 1: Withering

After tea leaves are plucked, they’re left to dry and wither under direct sunlight. They’re usually spread on large mats and dried until the moisture is soaked and they turn all shriveled.

Stage 2: Rolling

After the tea leaves are withered, they are now rolled so that any excess moisture and juices are released. 

Traditionally, these tea leaves are rolled by hand. But recently a new CTC (crush, tear, curl) is used where leaves are rolled in large metal drums. The process is mechanized, and the tea leaves are broken down.

Stage 3: Oxidization

Did you know that this process is what makes black tea different from green tea? All this time, we thought they came from different plants.

If the leaves are oxidized longer, we have black tea. But if they have controlled oxidation, you’re left with fresh green tea. 

Basically, this process involves storing the tea leaves so that they react with oxygen and turn brown.

Stage 4: Drying

For the grand finale, the leaves are dried using various methods that differ from region to region. 

Sometimes, the leaves are even steamed or boiled. Usually, the leaves are dried with hot air which turns the tea leaves from copper to dark brown or black. 

What climate is best for growing tea?

Tea leaves are grown in tropical and subtropical climates with loads of rain. The two most important factors when it comes to growing tea are air and rainfall. 

Let’s take a look.

Air

Although there is no perfect weather for growing tea, there are some general guidelines. 

You may notice that tea is generally grown in higher altitudes. Even though they can be grown at lower altitudes, the former tend to be of superior quality and more expensive too.

At higher altitudes, the temperature is also cooler and so air expands. Thus, it cannot hold all it’s moisture and clouds begin to form. This leads to rainfall which is super beneficial for tea plants as they thrive in moisture. 

Rainfall

Warm areas with frequent rainfalls are perfect for higher yields. That means the heavier the rainfall, the faster the tea plants are going to grow.

Even though tea plantations in cooler northern countries do pretty well, it is estimated that if the rainfall in an area is less than 1300 mm per annum, then it has a negative impact on the growth of tea plants.

Rainfall or water bodies have a tendency to moderate the temperature. Since tea plants grow best when there is less fluctuation in the weather, rainfall is pretty essential.

With adequate rainfall, the air remains humid and  moist. When there is enough water present in the air, the area doesn’t warm up or cool down too quickly.

So this provides a blanket of shelter to the tea plants.

Which tea leaves to pick?

Like we previously stated, tea is usually harvested twice a year. Usually, tea is harvested by hand. This is because it helps retain the flavor and quality of the tea without damaging it.

When harvesting the tea plants, the workers don’t pick up all the tea leaves. This takes years of experience and practice to identify which buds to leave behind and which ones to pick. Some fresh young leaves with the bud are perfect for giving us the best tea. The bud is a leaf at the end of the shoot which has not grown yet. 

This collection of the fresh juicy leaves, a part of the stem, and the new bud are called a “flush”.

Flushes can have 2 to 5 leaves. The most desired flushes are ones with 2-3 leaves. They’re so precious that they’re even termed, “the golden flush”.

 

Conclusion

That’s about it from us. We hope you learned something you didn’t know.

If you have any lingering doubts on where does tea leaves come from, do let us know in the comments below.

Until then, stay happy and always keep the thirst for knowledge alive!

 

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