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.
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
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.
(China.org.cn by Li Xiao August 2, 2011)