Many people associate green tea to be a Chinese or Japanese variety. While it’s true the most popular greens are indeed grown and produced in one of those two terroirs, the trait which defines a green tea lies in its production method, rather than the growing region or the kind of Camellia Sinenesis plant. With this in mind, we can assume there are plenty of regions that may also produce green tea.
Growing locations and conditions of the plant account for nearly all of the diversity in a variety of tea. For instance, if we had one Camellia Sinensis plant and grew it in Japan, and grew another one in China for an identical amount of time; then plucked, withered, fired, shaped, and performed each step in production identically, the final teas would still taste vastly different.
This is even the case on a smaller scale, such as in the case of elevation. I have heard of an instance where the price of tea shifted nearly $30 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) not because of higher quality production methods or workers, but simply because the road was on an incline, and the elevation shifted slightly higher in the 100 metres (328 feet) the prospective purchasers drove. It usually isn’t quite as dramatic; however, it does illustrate my point that location in teas greatly change the final product.
If a tea can change in taste because of a 100 metre drive down the road, we might not be at fault to assume there lies a great, vast potential in many exotic green teas in places where you might not expect them to pop up. And indeed there are those.
Below are a list of some different terroirs and their green teas.
Korea: This country is not given enough credit for its tea. They have their own tea ceremony, their own tea accoutrements, and a healthy tea culture, so it’s odd we don’t hear more from the country, not to mention import more Korean greens. The grades of Korean greens are Woojeon, Saejak, and Joonjak, listed from highest to lowest, and the best teas are grown in the region of Jirisan. This is an exotic green tea, which can combine traits of both Chinese and Japanese green tea. Now, for an unbeknownst reason, despite its lack of healthy tea culture, the Czech Republic is probably the best place to get Korean greens outside of Korea. They import handmade, artisan, organic greens by some of the most renown Korean tea masters. Unfortunately, it’s currently unknown whether or not any dealers are willing to ship internationally. A good international dealer is Hankook Tea.
Taiwan: This country is admittedly more known for its oolongs than its greens. They have their own versions of Bi Lo Chun and Long Jing, however, they are across the board with their inconsistencies. Some estates can produce great tea one year, then not-as-great the next year. In addition to this, there are few vendors which stock good Taiwanese greens consistently. For this reason, I would recommend looking into it on your own, if you are inclined to. Otherwise, and this especially goes for those who are not quite the tea masters yet (and I include myself in that category), I would recommend sticking to Taiwanese oolongs until you are ready to branch out into obscure subcategories of the beverage.
India: Specifically, I want to talk about green Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling tea is typically a black tea – or perhaps more accurately, an oolong – so it’s an interesting thing to know that there is Darjeeling green tea. It’s odd, because it has many traits of its black tea brother, but it also tastes fresh and crisp like a green tea, sometimes even more than a first-flush Darjeeling black. It’s worth a try for broadening your tea exploration. A good dealer is Darjeeling Tea Express.
Nepal: Specifically, Nepal. I had the opportunity to talk to Kevin from The Camellia Sinenesis Tea House in February, and he was mentioning about one of his projects. Yes, he has tea projects, and yes, they are amazing. The tea project he was mentioning was, essentially, connecting a Japanese tea grower and a Himalayan tea grower so they could share knowledge. What the goal was, and what ended up happening was that the Himalayan tea grower wanted to implement Japanese production methods to his Himalayan crop which would in turn, create a cup of tea which tasted almost like a Darjeeling cup of tea with the Japanese green tea flavours. It would be interesting to a whole new level. The leaves are not ready for the international marketplace, but when they are, they have potential to be wonderful. If you want to read more about the project, click here. Other than this, there are other Nepalese greens; however, they are generally somewhat comparable to the Darjeeling greens.
Vietnam: An often overlooked growing region. One of the noteworthy types is a lotus tea. Green tea leaves are taken, then scented with Lotus flowers or blended with them. It is almost always a high quality green tea, which is interesting as most scented teas are typically lower quality. Here is the most legitimate business which appears to sell Vietnamese green tea. Note that I, nor anybody I have encountered has ordered from them, but the prices are shockingly reasonable. I will order some before publishing time, and update accordingly. Here is the store.
Africa: Yes, I know Africa isn’t a country. In my defence, African green tea is so uncommon, it might as well be a footnote at the bottom of the page. The only tea of this variety I’ve heard of is a green tea from Malawi. Apparently, in 1921 the British planted a Camellia Sinensis var. Sinensis seed in Malawi, and they started to cultivate it. It’s steamed Japanese style, and it’s grown in an unexpected region. Though I have not tried it personally, apparently it’s a beautiful cup, not to mention a rare one, as only a few kilograms are produced per year. Here is the only dealer I’ve found for it.
So, conceivably, if you ever manage to taste every Japanese and Chinese green tea available, you’re still nowhere close to tasting every green tea. The list is just a compilation of the most common of the rarest. Start tasting!
EDIT: Fixed the Sri Lanka issue. There is an update on the Czech Republic ambiguity which I will update soon. Thanks to Stu from The Tea Catcher for pointing out these issues.