Tea is one of the most ancient and beloved beverages in the world, and tea lovers swear by its relaxing and revitalizing effects. These are the places you need to visit if you’d take a tea over a latte any day of the week.
1. Zhejiang Province, China
“I wouldn’t do that for all the tea in China!” …You sure?
Zhejiang is home to Longjing village and the tea named after it, which is often referred to as Dragon Well tea. It is known as one of China’s best brews and is mostly produced by hand in the fields surrounding West Lake (Xihu). Genuine Xihu Longjing tea is one of the most expensive teas on the market and is appreciated by connoisseurs for its rich chestnut aroma.
Both Longjing village and West Lake make for a beautiful visit, and if you go at the right time of year, you may have a chance to try the highest-quality Dragon Well tea the area has to offer. You can also visit the nearby China National Tea Museum in Hangzhou for a fascinating introduction to the country’s history of tea drinking and manufacture.
While most visitors in Taiwan come for the bright lights of its capital, Taipei, there is much to be seen in the mountains that make up the middle of the island, including some beautiful tea plantations. Taiwan may not have been making tea for as long as neighboring China, but its oolong is considered one of the world’s best, particularly “Oriental Beauty” Wulong, called the champagne of oolong teas.
Because the bulk of the island is mountainous, and thus perfect for growing tea, tea lovers in Taiwan have a wealth of plantation tours to choose from. Tea production is mostly small, localized, and family-owned, meaning it is an incredibly sustainable and eco-friendly industry. Several plantations offer tours where you can observe the manufacturing process and meet the tea masters and their families who have been growing tea on the land for generations.
3. Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
Japan’s largest and best tea-making region is also home to its most famous natural landmark: Mount Fuji. Indeed, all around the iconic mountain, you will find bright green fields of tea leaves, which have been grown in the region since the 1200s and which produce 40% of Japan’s tea. Undoubtedly the most famous of these is matcha, made from tencha leaves that are steamed, dried and ground to a fine powder. (It is the fact that matcha is drunk with the whole leaf that makes both the color and flavor so potent.)
Lovers of ocha (Japanese green tea) will delight in a visit to one of the many tea-growing villages in Shizuoka. As well as visiting the plantations themselves, you can visit a tea master and learn about the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. This ritual elevates tea drinking to a delicate art, based on a series of precise movements called temae.
4. Darjeeling, India
Darjeeling tea leaves are some of the most prized in the world. They come in different “flushes”, each representing a different tea-cultivating season: the first flush is mild and delicate, while the more expensive second flush is robust and full-bodied. Then, every tea is given a grade corresponding to the quality and size of the leaves. Darjeeling teas differ significantly from one another. Most are black, but some green, white, and oolong varieties are also produced.
Darjeeling can be reached via the famous Himalayan Toy Train, which winds itself through the mountains, passing several villages on the way. You can either choose to stay within the town itself, a charming blend of colonial architecture, teahouses, and markets, or stay in one of the many tea plantations nearby that double as guesthouses. Enjoy sipping Darjeeling tea all day long as you stay out of the hot Indian sun.
5. Sri Lanka
A little further south, Sri Lanka has its own long history of tea-making, with the internationally-known Ceylon tea. Ceylon is actually not a specific type of tea, but simply denotes any tea made in Sri Lanka, which was formerly known as Ceylon. The most popular type of Ceylon tea is black, known for its bold citrus-like flavor and consumed either hot or on ice.
Visiting a tea plantation in Sri Lanka is one of the most popular tourist activities in the country, and so there is a wide range of plantation hotels and tours to choose from. You can stay in a luxury bungalow with sweeping vistas of the plantations and do tastings with an expert, or spend a few days in a guesthouse learning everything about the production of Ceylon tea. You can also visit the Ceylon Tea Museum near Kandy, which gives in-depth insight into how tea is made in the country, and how important it is to Sri Lankan culture.
It is fascinating to think about the amount of work, tradition, and thought that goes into making the humble cup of tea you enjoy every morning. These destinations allow you to actually see the vast emerald green plains that produce your favorite drink, all while enjoying some of the best tea the world has to offer. If that isn’t a tea lover’s dream, we don’t know what is.