China has the longest history with tea, going back thousands of years, with a tea culture to match. Tea in China encompasses rich aesthetic, social, and spiritual dimensions, and is also an everyday beverage for all walks of life. Despite being the world's largest tea producer, the heart of Chinese tea remains in its local practices, with small farmers and communities crafting teas often meant for local enjoyment.

The Geography of Chinese Tea Production

The four main tea-growing regions of China are Xinan in the southwest, which includes Yunnan Province, the cradle of tea; Huanan in the south, featuring Fujian Province and an ideal tea-growing climate; Jiangnan, south of the Yangtze, with abundant rainfall and fine teas grown at high altitudes; and Jiangbei, north of the Yangtze, with a cooler, dryer climate yielding excquisite flavors.

The timing of harvests

The first pluck of the year is called Ming Qian and occurs before the Qingming festival around April 5th, an occasion to celebrate spring and honor ancestors. The Ming Qian pluck includes fresh growth after the dormant season, which makes for especially flavorful leaves. The two-week plucking period following Qingming is Yu Qian, or “before the rains”, followed in turn by Gu Yu, until early May, and Li Xia, until the end of May.

Learn more

Read more about tea in China, in our Tea Tales.


In Japan’s extraordinary tea culture, the everyday pleasures of making, sharing, and drinking tea are enriched with spiritual, ethical, and aesthetic principles to celebrate simple beauty. The famous tea ceremony, or The Way of Tea (chadō, with matcha, or senchadō, with sencha) exemplifies this combination, as a form of hospitality raised to an art. Okakura Kakuzo, in his classic work, The Book of Tea, writes of the purity, harmony, and mutual consideration extolled in The Way of Tea.

Diverse Regions, Unique Flavors

Shizuoka Prefecture, in central Japan, is known as the heartland of tea production. Kyoto Prefecture was home to the first tea cultivation in Japan and remains a source of extraordinary teas. Mie Prefecture, nearby, has also become a vital source of outstanding teas. The southern island of Kyushu includes Fukuoka Prefecture, long recognized for exceptional teas, as well as Miyazaki, well-regarded among connoisseurs, and Kagoshima, southernmost, with flavors that benefit from a long coastline and volcanic soil.

Tradition and Innovation

The first tea harvest of the year in Japan is known as shincha, the source of remarkable green teas. Unlike in other lands, modern machinery has long been embraced in Japanese tea production, which features a singular combination of old and new, rich history blended with ongoing innovation. The combination has led to truly distinctive teas, which can often be prepared at lower temperatures and with shorter steeping times than other teas, for remarkably fresh and subtle flavors.

Learn More

Read more about tea in Japan, in our Tea Tales.


India boasts a vast tea culture, unparalleled in its consumption and standing as the second largest tea exporter after China. Spanning centuries, India’s history with tea includes the rich tradition of Ayurveda, with its medicinal uses of tea and aromatic blends of herbs and spices. A hallmark of Indian tea is a robust character, featuring bold flavors from the Assamica variety of tea plant native to the region.

Three Unique Regions of Tea Production

India’s three most famous tea producing regions are Darjeeling, Assam, and the Nilgiris. Darjeeling, close by the Himalayas in the north, benefits from high altitudes, which contribute to the light and subtle flavors of Darjeeling teas. Assam, also in the north but at a lower elevation, is famous for big, bold flavors. The Nilgiris, a gorgeous, mountainous region near India’s southwest coast, produce teas with a unique mix of body and bright, floral notes.

Dynamic culture, dynamic flavors

The strong flavors of many Indian teas lend themselves well to drinking with milk, especially when mixed with spices, like for India’s famous chai tea. More delicate leaves from Darjeeling and the Nilgiris, by contrast, are enjoyed pure, to savor their complex profiles. Recent years have seen a surge in innovation for artisanal teas, underscoring the dynamism of Indian tea production and culture.

Learn more

Read more about tea in India in our Tea Tales.


Known as the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda’s consistently high elevation and volcanic soil make the ecology an excellent one for growing tea. The primary tea producing regions lie mainly in the west, including Rutsiro, Nyamasheke, and Nyabihu, where the lush green slopes are a destination in themselves.

New Initiatives for Sustainable, Premium Production

Tea plants were introduced in Rwanda in the 20th century, and some stories attribute their introduction to German missionaries. Tea production has increased in the last decades, along with new initiatives to produce premium, artisanal tea. The tea industry today reflects the will to move beyond the country’s troubled past, with commitments for social and environmental sustainability, including the adoption of innovative growing techniques.


Most tea in Kenya is grown in the beautiful highlands to the east and west of the Great Rift Valley. Tea production is split between large plantations and small-holding farmers and farmers’ collectives, who bring their leaves to centers throughout the country for production. Today, Kenya is among the top tea-producing lands globally.

Independence and Innovation

Tea was first introduced to Kenya by colonial settlers at the beginning of the 20th century. Under colonial rule, Kenyan tea was oriented around mass production. After winning independence, Kenya partially nationalized its tea production. Today, production in Kenya is diversifying with artisanal and experimental production techniques. Kenya’s unique purple tea is the product of more than 25 years of (ongoing) research and innovation!


Wild tea trees have grown in Thailand since ancient times. Some accounts hold that they were introduced from what is now the Yunnan region by nomadic Bulang peoples, for whom the tea tree was sacred, or by the ancient Dai Kingdom, which reached from Yunnan to northern Thailand and beyond. Today, tea is cultivated the elevated regions of northern Thailand, including Doi Mae Salong and Mae Hong Son, or the Land of Three Mists, where lush mountainsides offer excellent growing conditions. 

Thailand's Tea Legacy

Contemporary tea production goes back to members of the Kuomintang opposition to the Chinese revolution in the mid 20th century. Kuomintang refugees, especially from the Yunnan region, brought with them their tea culture and agricultural techniques. Today, Thailand is known for its premium oolong teas, with a style similar to oolongs produced in Taiwan, another former destination for the Kuomintang.