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Around the World With Tea

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When you think of Twinings, you might first think of England. True, the two have been synonymous since Twinings opened its first store in London in 1706 (fun fact: it’s still there today!). But there are so many other wonderful places around the world that have played a critical role in our success.  

 

Let’s take a trip around the world and see some of our most important and enduring tea garden partnerships. 

 

First, let’s talk about where tea grows. 

 

Did you know that tea grows in over 50 countries around the world? There are even tea gardens in Scotland, Wales, Laos, South Korea, France, Portugal and the USA, and here in Australia. Above and below the equator, on almost every continent.  

 

Even more fascinating is the variety of teas that are grown, and how geography, altitude and climate can influence them. Successful tea gardens all have these things in common: 

 

  • Terroir 

  • Elevation 

  • Sunshine (yes, even Scotland) (ok, they use greenhouses in Scotland) 

  • Rain 

  • Acidic soil (pH 4 or lower) 

 

But subtle differences between regions produce a huge variety of teas. Altitude also plays a big role in defining the type of tea that’s grown. For example, Darjeeling is often referred to as the champagne of tea because of its terroir. Nestled high in the Himalayas, it’s light, floral and delicate. 

Rule of thumb: lower altitudes give you thicker, malty tastes, and higher altitudes give you lighter, more floral tastes. 

 

China 

We’ve been sourcing from China since Twinings began in 1706, but tea has been at the centre of China’s culture since the Tang Dynasty in the year 618. They are the biggest supplier of tea in the world, and their reputation is unparalleled. 

Unsurprisingly, this illustrious legacy of tea growing has led to a wide array of specialist tea regions, including: 

 

Yunnan 
The birthplace of black teas and fermented Puerh tea. Nutty and bold. 

 

Zhejiang 
The green tea basket of the world. Light and bright. 

 

Central China 

Neutral and smoky teas. This region’s teas were the inspiration behind Earl Grey and Russian Caravan blends.  

 

Fujian  

Specialty teas like Jasmine and white teas. Fragrant and sweet. 

 

Did you know? 

Russian Caravan references the smoky wood fires of the Silk Road. 

 

India 

The second biggest tea supplier is India. When the British were trying to popularise tea, they decided to broaden their horizons and start sourcing from new regions. Needless to say, it worked out pretty well. 

 

Natively found growing in Assam (iconic), planted in Darjeeling (also iconic) and South India, these seasonal blends only grow usable tea in May and June, giving these blends a special, almost romantic character. 

 

Did you know? Further away from the equator, tea crops are seasonal. Closer to the equator, they’ll grow year-round. 

 

Darjeeling  

One of the most unique regions. The first flush (growth) in spring is very fresh, and the second flush is more rounded and flavoursome. 

 

Assam  

Bold, thick, viscous and bright. Assam is also self-milking. If you leave a second-flush Assam to rest over a couple of hours, you’ll see it’s become milky and malty. Magic. 

 

The Himalayas 

Both black and green teas grow in the Kangra Valley in the Western Himalayas. Sikkim, nestled in the Eastern Himalayas, grows everything from black and green, to white and Oolong. 

 

South India  

Green tea is grown all year around with seasonal variations. Nilgiris (also known as the Blue Mountains) produces a distinct light character, similar to Darjeeling. 

 

Worth mentioning varieties again teas also growing in Kangra Valley in the North, state of Sikkim nestled in the Himalayas, etc 

 

Sri Lanka

Originally planted by Brits and Scots, Sri Lanka is distinct in terms of elevation and climate, producing nutty, black teas at low altitudes to lighter, sweeter teas at higher altitudes. Monsoon systems also affect the tea’s character, with the dry season producing sweeter, more juicy leaves. 

 

Did you know? Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon until the 1970s. Its teas are still known as Ceylon teas. 

 

Low altitude 

Malty, thick and dark. Sri Lanka’s black teas form the bedrock of many of Twinings’ breakfast blends, including English and Irish Breakfast teas. 

 

High altitude  

Light, golden and fragrant. Think Ceylon and the popular Morning Tea. 

 

Kenya 

Kenya is the new kid on the block, with the first tea only planted in the 1930s. In this region’s volcanic-rich soils, tea grows all year round, producing brisk, bright, quick-infusing teas with flowery, geranium notes. 

 

Indonesia 

You might think of Indonesia as a source of coffee, but did you know tea grows in the hot and humid islands of Java and Sumatra? Very distinct, bright and slightly spicy. 

 

Argentina 

Argentina, in the southern hemisphere, produces a subtle, light blend. Although it’s not usually used as a standalone tea, it’s sensational when paired with other blends to lift it up and give it more dimension. 

 

Who grows the tea? 

Tea farmers are passionate, lifelong devotees of tea. They are usually there when the first seeds are planted in a nursery or greenhouse, there to transplant the plants to a field, and there to nourish those plants for the two to three years it takes for the crop to mature. 

 

Once mature, a healthy crop should be strong and sturdy, able to rejuvenate (meaning produce new leaves) on a weekly basis, year on year. Farmers will then work to keep their crop in good health to maximise yield for as long as possible. Yields differ between regions; for example, Sri Lanka produces less than about 2,000 kg per/ha whereas Kenya’s yield is 8,000 kg per/ha. 

 

What makes these sources special? 

Twinings sources its tea from about 120 gardens around the world. While this may sound like a lot, it’s actually quite small when you consider that Northern India alone has 7,000 gardens.  

 

We’ve learned a lot about the diversity of our sources, and the unique cultural signature each country offers. As such, we’ve learned to source quality over quantity. It’s about buying the right blend, at the right time, from those we've built trusted relationships with, so we can be confident that we are meeting the highest ethical standards. 

 

Because when we say sourced with care, we mean it. 

 

The History of Tea and Twinings - Sourced with care