Production areas of Chinese tea get generally divided in two ways: by the province or by regions. Regions may include multiple provinces or parts of provinces, and can be helpful in understanding similarities in climatic and geographic conditions, and/or styles of tea produced. Within the China tea industry, most people will simply refer to provinces.
CHINA TEA PRODUCTION – REGIONS WITH ASSOCIATED PROVINCES
This is considered the northernmost region, and includes tea areas north of the Yangtze River. The area generally has a cooler, drier climate, and includes:
- Anhui Province – northern portion
- Gansu Province
- Henan Province
- Jiangsu Province- northern portion
- Shaanxi Province
- Shandong Province
Jiangnan refers to areas (mostly) south of the Yangtze River, and is one of the most prolific tea-producing regions in China. Many popular Firsd Tea teas come from Jiangnan, including: Dragonwell, Gunpowder, Keemun, and Chunmee, and Young Hyson. The region includes:
- Anhui Province – southern portion
- Hubei Province
- Hunan Province
- Jiangsu Province – southern portion
- Jiangxi Province
- Zhejiang Province
This area offers a welcoming climate for producing tea, with warmer average temperatures and some of the highest annual rainfall levels in China. Famous teas from the area include: Silver Needle, Bai Mu Dan, Se Chung, Tie Kuan Yin, and Lapsang Souchong. The region includes:
- Fujian Province
- Guangdong Province
- Guangxi Province
- Hainan Province
The Southwest Region is considered to be the ancestral home of the tea plant. The region produces many styles of tea, including green teas, black teas, and pu’erh teas. It includes:
- Guizhou Province
- Sichuan Province
- Yunnan Province
The last decade has seen remarkable changes in the volumes of tea produced and the amount of tea bushes planted in China. In general, China is shifting towards producing more green teas. The Economist reports that 68% of current Chinese tea production is loose leaf green tea. Guizhou and Hubei provinces saw some of the biggest gains in overall production between 2007 and 2016, with Guizhou hitting a nearly 400% increase, and Hubei 182%. During that time, Hubei doubled their number of hectares of tea, and Guizhou tea hectares increased nearly five fold.
Another notable example is Anhui province. Anhui’s overall tea production grew 58%, and growth in hectares planted increased only 24%. However, during that same period, green tea production increased 71%. This could be a result of:
- A shift of using existing plants to produce green instead of black tea
- Green tea growers are teasing more yield by bumping production per plant, placing more plants per hectare, or both
But production and acreage gains aren’t only about having the most green tea. The Southwestern provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan produced a combined 445,000 metric tons of green tea in 2015 compared to 166,000 metric tons of green produced in Zhejiang province.
In spite of locational shifts in overall production volume in Chinese green teas, Zhejiang and neighboring Anhui maintain their status as leaders in green tea production for a few key reasons:
- The better known, recognized styles of tea come from these provinces. These include dragon well, and gunpowder from Zhejiang Province. The region also produces competitively priced sencha and matcha. These provinces’ long-established capabilities give them further operational efficiencies.
- Zhejiang’s position as a coastal province gives it competitive advantage for more timely and efficient international transport, and more immediate access to the majority of China’s domestic consumers.
- Sichuan and Yunnan are more diversified in teas produced. Approximately 96% of the tea produced in Zhejiang is green tea, while only 65% of Yunnan province’s tea is green tea. Sichuan and Yunnan have to spread their processing abilities across more non-green teas: particularly, black and dark tea.