As the national beverage of China, tea is produced in vast areas in the country, from Hainan Island down in the extreme south to Shandong Province in the north, from Tibet in the southwest to Taiwan across the Straits. According to a report released by the China Social Science Academy Press, China is the world's largest tea producer. It produced 1.3 million tonnes in 2009, accounting for 31 percent of the world total. China's tea plantations amount to a total area of 1.86 million hectares, about half of the world's total tea growing space.
Because of varying geographic location and climate, different regions grow various kinds of tea. In general, there are four tea-producing regions.
Jiangbei tea producing areas/江北茶区
This refers to a large area north of the Yangtze River, consisting of the provinces of Shandong, Anhui, Henan, Shaanxi, Gansu and northern part of Jiangsu. It is China's most northern tea-producing area with a relatively low annual average temperature of 15-16 Centigrade degrees. Green tea is the principal variety turned out here.
The area's uneven rainfall often results in drought-stricken tea plants. But in some mountainous regions where the local climate is agreeable to tea growing, several premium teas are produced. These include Henan province's Xinyang Maojian and Lu'an Guapian from Anhui province.
This area lies south of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, covering the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan and the southern parts of Anhui and Jiangsu. This is most prolific tea-growing area in China, with an annual output comprising two thirds of the domestic total.
The area enjoys four distinctive seasons, with affluent rainfall in spring and summer followed by a dry autumn. Tea farms here are often located in hilly areas and sometimes in high altitude, mountainous regions. Varieties produced in this area include green, black, oolong, as well as various scented teas, among which Dragon Well (Longjing) from Zhejiang Province and Biluochun from Jiangsu Province are top varieties. Teas from Jiangnan are famous throughout China and the world.
This area, consisting of the southern provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Taiwan, Hainan and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is mostly famous for black, oolong and white tea production. Covered by rusty-red soil, the area enjoys an annual average temperature of 19-22 Centigrade degrees and the most annual rainfall among all tea-producing areas in China, which enables a growing season as long as ten months. All these factors make the Southern China area one of the most agreeable areas for tea planting.
The southwest area西南茶区
The area is considered to be the original birthplace of the tea plant. It embraces the southwest provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and part of the Tibet Autonomous Region, producing green, black, post-fermented and compressed teas.
The land in China's southwest has the highest soil organic content compared with other tea-producing areas in China. The complicated terrain and diverse climates breed various types of tea, among which Pu'er tea from Yunnan Province is the most famous in China and abroad.
Four big “tea schools” of Chinese teahouse
There is a long history for Chinese to go to teahouse to drink tea while the saying of four big “tea schools” is the short title for cities where teahouse prevails. If one needs to find the cities where the richest teahouse culture is, there will be Hangzhou in the east, Chengdu in the west, Chaoshan in the south and Beijing in the north. The big brands such as Taiji Tea Ceremony, Lao She Teahouse, Shengtaosha and Wufu Teahouse are all from these cities where “tea flavor” prevails.
tea in Hangzhou is to experience the exquisite culture there. “Green ridge and Lake Mountain deepen in insight, tea chatting in rattans matching a meditative mind”, Qingteng Teahouse near the
West Lake has been the representative of thousands of teahouses in Hangzhou. Sitting by the West Lake, having a good pot of tea that is made from a“Taiji Tea Ceromony”, seeing a tea maker
dressing in a steel gray robe, hearing the shouts from Hefang Street and seeing ups and downs of the long-necked kettle from the waiters, it is not the tea anymore that intoxicates but the
surrounding that makes the drinker feel high.
tea in Chengdu is to experience the civilian culture. The seriousness of enjoying life for Chengdu people goes farther than that of Yangzhou people. The way that Chengdu people drink tea can
really be called “leisure talk and stall tea”, with no requirements on the tea quality and the environment. Drinking tea can be as easy as putting up a table and chairs under the shadow of a
tree. It is the life style that they pursue. Only the technique of pouring tea by long-necked kettle has various styles and abundant schools, with “Emei” and “Qingcheng”, etc. in neck-to-neck
tea in Chaoshan is to experience the tea ceremony culture. “kungfu tea” in Chaoshan is famous both at home and abroad, which is rather detailed process from tea selecting, tea-making technique to
tea ware. The tea tastes good because they use sweet and pure water from mountain spring which is boiled by charcoal fire with olive core accompanied by small fan. The best tea leaves should be
Oolong and Tie Guanyin, etc.
tea in Beijing is to experience the noble culture. At the foot of capital, everything has a touch of generous, rich and honor. The tea soup in Laoshe Teahouse which has made tea for more than
decades appears to be more elegant and poised compared with the teahouses in other provinces. Red lanterns are hung in strings and the sound of gongs and drums on the stage is extremely loud.
Comic dialogue is put on the stage just after Beijing opera, non-stop. Waiters are fond of teaching others here; they know tea culture just like the back of their hands: glass cup for green tea,
covered bowl for scented tea and Kungfu tea ware for Tie Guanyin, those cannot be mixed up at all. Tea drinking guests are also happy to hear the witty and humorous explanations. Cultures from
different places can be experienced through drinking different tea, while that cup of tea in your hand is brewed by the local folk customs.