Great Spots for Tea

I am not and have never been a coffee drinker. Although I desperately tried to become one when living in Spain since coffee there is de rigueur, I failed miserably. Even a coffee drink whose name was incredibly sweet sounding-cafe bombom- still tasted too much like, well, coffee. Tea has always been my thing (chalk it up to my British ancestors) and a dream of mine is to one day visit a tea plantation in some of the world’s most famous tea producing countries such as India, China, or South Africa. For now here is a list of some of the world’s best spots for tea.

1.) Region of Darjeeling, India
Darjeeling tea is from the Darjeeling region in West Bengal, India and comes in either white, black, or oolong. Tea planting began in the Darjeeling region in the mid-19th century. Unlike many Indian teas, Darjeeling tea is normally made from the small-leafed Chinese variety of Camellia sinensis as opposed to the large leaved Assam plant. Happy Valley Estates, founded in 1854, is one of the most historic tea gardens in Darjeeling. The tea produced there can be purchased in the United Kingdom at Harrods and in France at Mariage Freres.

2.) Kiambethu Tea Estate-Kenya
While most people would probably associate Kenya with coffee (I’ve heard that Kenyan coffee is quite good from my coffee drinking friends and family), it is actually one of the world’s largest tea producers. The country is home to fairly high elevations (at Kiambethu the elevation is 7,000 feet), so tea growing is prime there. Kiambethu offers visitors a chance to tour the grounds, to dine for lunch, as well as to learn about tea production from a farm that has been in existence since 1910 (just like Karen Von Blixen-Finecke’s Out of Africa).

3.) Ceylon Tea Trails-Sri Lanka
Tea production is one of Sri Lanka’s most profitable and historic industries, providing one of the main sources of foreign exchange and employment for many of the country’s laborers. One of the best ways to experience bountiful Sri Lanka’s tea industry is by staying at Ceylon Tea Trails, four colonial era tea planters’ bungalows (straight out of George Orwell’s Burmese Days). Each of the bungalows was built between 1890 and 1939 and are furnished with authentic period furnishings. Included free of charge with your all inclusive room rate is the tea experience in which the resident tea planter shows visitors the tea making process.

4.) Mate-Argentina’s Misiones and Corientes provinces
Although Argentina is a major producer of tea, it is best known for the cultivation and consumption of mate which is made with the leaves of the local yerba mate plant. If you’ve never had mate before, be prepared for an incredibly strong taste. I tried it when I visited Argentina and let’s just say that I’ve stuck with my tried and true favorites of black and oolong teas. When Jesuit missionaries first came to Argentina they tried to ban the widely drunk yerba mate indigenous as they were of the belief it contained addictive ingredients. Eventually however they changed their stance on it and ended up cultivating it themselves. The regions of Argentina with the largest concentration of tea cultivation are the highland areas of the Misiones and Corientes provinces in northeastern Argentina where the climate is hot and humid.

Have you ever been to any? Are there any you would like to now visit after what you’ve read?

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  • Reply
    May 7, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    I’ve never been to a tea plantation but I’m very interested to go. We’re heading out to the Cameron Highlands (the tea growing area of Malaysia) in a few weeks. If that turns out to be interesting I’d love to go to a plantation in Darjeeling simply because I love its tea.

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    May 8, 2012 at 12:40 am

    I am extremely jealous of your upcoming trip plans and will be anxious to read all about on your blog! If you make it to Darjeeling I will live vicariously through you since sadly India is not on my trip radar anytime soon πŸ™

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