What is the most confusing place for people to make a choice? It is probably the supermarket. As a tea-savvy, the most time-consuming aisle for me in the supermarket is the beverage. There are a whole bunch of almost the same-size boxes lying on the shelf and usually they can be categorized by different standards. They can be divided into Green, Black and Herbal. They can be categorized by organic and non-organic. People can even choose them according to those emotional adjustment functions, which I never believe so, such as calm, passion or refresh. Or trying to pick out what you need by this so typical American way, caffeine or caffeine-free.
Actually, there is another way to make your tea choice, which is seldom chosen by me. The way is choosing the tea by production regions. And the reason why I never try this way is that I can rarely find Chinese Tea category.( Indian is the most popular tea here, I think!) People always get interested in what they hardly know. How about starting the navigation of tea production regions around the world from China, the original tea production country?
First off, all the tea in China is grown in the southern half of China. Not only southern China the birthplace of tea (Yunnan to be more specific), but of course the climate is ideal. Northern China is simply too cold.
The divided growing regions of China are: Southwest, North of the Yangtze (Gansu, Shanxi, Henan and Shandong), South of the Yangtze (Hubei, Anhui, Jiangsu, Hunan, Jiangxi and Zhejiang) and South China (Guangxi, Guangdong, Fujian, and Hainan).
The Southwest district is comprised of Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou and the southern part of Tibet. This region has a subtropical monsoon climate which is the perfect weather for tea to grow. Yunnan is considered the birthplace of tea well-known for the oldest living tea tree there. The oldest living tea tree is an incredible 1700 years old and the oldest cultivated tree is 800 years old. Yunnan produces mainly black tea but also produces some white, green and oolong. Nearly all Pu-er is also made in Yunnan. Guizhou is famous for growing Yunwu, a rare and style of green tea that is hard to be found in the US. Sichuan produces mostly green as well as black and yellow tea. Tibet grows very little tea that is most often made into low grade pu-erh or black tea. The soil in these provinces is mainly yellow or brown, which a kind of sour soil and most suitable for tea planting.
The North of the Yangtze district refers to Henan, Shanxi, Gansu and Shangdong. This region also includes the northern sections of Anhui, Jiangsu. This region produces mainly green tea and is not famous for quality. Tea in this region may suffer drought due to uneven rainfall. This means that there are micro climates that are great for growing. The soil is chiefly yellow and yellow-brown. Liu An Guapian, Xinyang and Maojian are grown in the more favorable micro-climates here.
The South of the Yangtze district refers to Zhejiang, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu. This region is the bread and butter so to speak of tea production in China. There are some incredibly famous gardens and micro regions here and the annual production totals about 2/3s of the entire crop of China. 4 seasons are clearly defined. This region produces mainly green, black and scented tea. This region is home to 5 of the 10 famous teas of China. The soil type is mainly red with some yellow and yellow-brown soil. 60-80% of the precipitation is concentrated in the summer and spring.
The South China district includes Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian and Hainan, an island off the south coast of China. The soil type is classified as old clay and red clay in other parts. This soil is very nutritious. This region gets a lot of annual rainfall and the period of growth for the tea trees is 10 months out of the year. Black/red, green and oolong tea are produced here. The most noteworthy of these types of tea is oolong. Anxi and Wuyi Shan, two of the most famous growing areas for oolongs are in this district.
This is just some basic information I threw together to give a basic idea of what the growing regions of China are like. Honestly, as a Chinese, I don’t know even more than that until I go to those regions and tea gardens.