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Homeland of Tea

Photographer: Roman Pilipey


Tea is very important element of Chinese tradition, that it is considered one of the seven necessities of Chinese daily life.


The history of tea in China is long and complex as the Chinese enjoy the herbal brew for millennia. According to a legend, tea was first discovered by the legendary Chinese emperor Shennong in 2737 BC. Today, the country is the world’s biggest tea producer, selling many varieties of tea leaves such as green tea, black tea, oolong tea, white tea and yellow tea.


Tea has been used for many different purposes. First as ritual offering and later, it was consumed as a vegetable and used as a medicine. Now it is the most highly consumed beverage in the world. China still boasts many teahouses, particularly in cities with a strong teahouse culture such as Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Chengdu.


Different regions are famous for growing different types of tea. Hangzhou, for instance, is famous for producing a type of green tea called Longjing, also known as the Dragon Well tea. Tea tastes also vary regionally. Drinkers in Beijing tend to prefer jasmine tea while in Shanghai people prefer green tea.


Processing raw tea leaves for consumption is a time and labor-intensive activity and still done by hand in many areas in China. The Chinese tea industry employs around 80 million people as farmers, pickers and sales people.


April is considered the best season for tea collecting. Day shifts are doubled and night shifts added for the workers to be able to quickly process the tea. Tea pickers tend to be seasonal workers who migrate from all parts of the country during harvest time. The pickers work from early morning until evening for an average wage of around 120 RMB (around 16 euros) a day. Tea can be sold from around 80 RMB (around 11 euros) to over 4,000 RMB (around 525 euro) per kilogram. In 2016, China produced 2.43 million tons of tea.


The ubiquity of tea in China is astonishing. On street corners, in restaurants, in taxi — people can be found nursing a cup of tea at all times of a day. Chinese people believe that the practice of brewing and drinking tea can bring the spirit and wisdom of human beings to a higher level. For them tea is not just a drink. It is a part of their culture.