China, where state farms are being supplanted by private ones, remains the largest tea grower of the world; elsewhere, tea is usually grown on plantations. Tea culture requires a protected, well-drained habitat in a warm climate with ample rainfall. The leaves are picked by hand, principally during flushes (periods of active growth), the most desirable being those near the growing tip. They are prepared by withering, rolling, and firing (i.e., heating).
The many kinds of tea are usually named for their color and grade (the best teas using only the two terminal leaves) or for their district of origin, e.g., Darjeeling and Lapsang. Teas are sometimes scented by exposure to fragrant flowers, e.g., jasmine. Brick tea is made from tea dust or inferior tea pressed into blocks. Black teas (e.g., pekoes, souchongs, and congous) differ from green teas (e.g., imperials, gunpowders, and hysons) in having been fermented before firing; oolongs, intermediate in color and flavor, are partially fermented. Green teas are produced chiefly in China and Japan; black teas in China, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya; and oolongs in Taiwan.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.