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Although tea was already discovered in China nearly five thousand years ago, it took several thousand years before the plant found its way to other parts of the world. Today, tea is grown on a commercial scale in approximately three dozen countries and, in each country, the product makes a significant contribution to the economy of the agricultural sector.

The world’s major tea cultivating regions are between latitudes 43° north and 30° south (see map; for origin details see below information). Tea plants thrive on plenty of sunshine, but don’t like standing water, which is why most tea gardens are located on hillsides up to an altitude of 3.000 metres.

China is the world’s top tea producing country, (1.3 million tonnes) followed by India, Africa, Ceylon (since 1977 Sri Lanka) and Indonesia. The most famous Indian teas come from the north, e.g. from the highland gardens of Darjeeling and from Assam in north-east India, home of the world’s largest continuous tea-growing region. Typical characteristics of this tea are its dark colour and the strong, distinctive flavour.

China, India, Africa, Ceylon and Indonesia supply the world market with just under 1.6 million tonnes of tea a year. Other countries with strong tea traditions such as Japan, Russia and Turkey produce tea mainly for their own consumption. Major cultivating regions also include Dooars, an Indian province west of Assam, Nilgiri in south-west India, and Formosa, today called Taiwan, which is famous for its excellent Oolong tea.

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