If you asked a child in most Western cities what tea is, the chances are they will say it is a brown powder in a small paper bag which has a string attached to it!
The dumbing down and lack of information about this mystical and healthy beverage was successfully carried out by large multi national food companies from the 1970s until a few years ago. They were looking for market share in the supermarkets and therefore attempted to make the tea bag a generic product without emphasising product quality, regional variation or origin.
Thankfully over the last few years the knowledge about tea and its wonderful attributes have been widely publicised, primarily because of the health benefits associated with it.
Tea is grown in many countries mainly in Asia and Africa. It is an important agricultural product and the source of important export revenue for many of them. The tea trade employs millions of people to produce, manufacture and distribute this healthy and pleasing drink which we all enjoy.
The principal producers of tea are China, India, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Taiwan. Very often smaller tea producing countries blend their teas with teas from the major producing countries as their own production levels are low.
Terroir is a French word that refers to a place where the roots of a plant grow.
The effect of that particular environment, altitude, climate, weather and soil has a distinct bearing on the unique taste, attributes and character of the beverage produced in an area or region.
That is why tea produced in Darjeeling or wine that is produced in Bordeaux, has a characteristic that is unique to the region.
Good tea and good wine…Enjoy!
Some companies in Australia claim to supply ‘Australian produced tea’.
The tea plantations in Australia which are run by these companies in Queensland are relatively small in acreage compared to the plantations run in the traditional tea producing countries.
The yield (the amount of leaf) from an acre of plantation can vary depending on location and climatic conditions, but generally there are accepted yield levels.
Even allowing for the ‘rough’ picking of the leaves in Australia– machine picking which picks up stalk as against hand picking –two leaves and a bud only, the quantity of so called Australian produced tea sold in the supermarkets cannot be reconciled with its limited production capacity.
To put it bluntly, far too much ‘Australian produced’ tea is sold relative to the Australian plantation’s production capacity!
How does this happen? Lesser quality Australian tea is blended with other quality imported tea (usually Ceylon Tea from Sri Lanka).
Some companies actually state this on their packaging.
Because it is almost impossible to determine the percentage of imported tea used in many ‘Australian Produced’ tea blends, the question must be asked if this is simply a deliberate and clever (though misleading) marketing ploy to attract Australian consumer loyalty for an inferior product.