It’s often a wonder to those just getting into to tea to discover that all tea comes from the same plant–Camellia Sinensis. The question that immediately popped into all of our minds when we had this realization for the first time had to have been “so why do teas vary so much?” Well I won’t harp too much on the subject, because many of you understand the reasons for that. Tea preparations vary like crazy even among categories and regions of similarity, giving us everything from the straight and simple Senchas of the world to the tightly wound Pu’Erh Touchas.
When we talk about differences in tea preparation and treatment, we’re typically talking about things like wilting, oxidation, rolling and firing. It is important, however, to consider carefully just where tea is grown. In the traditional tea growing regions of the world (China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, to leave out a few) tea plants are raised in vastly different climates and soils. One learns to associate certain regions of the world with favorite flavors–for me, there is nothing quite as amazing as a fine Darjeeling. Grown in (you guessed it) the Darjeeling region of India, these high-altitude leaves produce a depth of flavor that has brought upon them the name “champagne of teas.”
While this region is essential to producing the Darjeeling taste, this fascinating article from Darjeeling Tea Express indicates that there might be more to it. The article discusses the recent scientific discovery of a set of genes that are responsible for the production of this unique flavor, and the importance of the region’s insect population in actually activating those genes. It’s a pretty fascinating topic to me, and one that I think should remind us of how important the lands our tea comes from really are to us, and how deep each cup of tea really goes. In every cup we drink there are tectonic movements, rich soils and roots, living leaves and sunlight, insects and human hands at work, gigantic weather systems and mountain ranges.