Tea is similar to wine in that the atmosphere in which it's grown determines much of its flavour and quality. Tea plants typically fare best in acidic soil and regions with heavy rainfall (around 40 inches per year), although they can be grown anywhere from sea level to altitudes as high as 1.3 miles above sea level.
Tea farms vary in size from plantations that spread thousands of acres owned by large corporations to small tea gardens cultivated by local tea farmers. Larger estates sell their yield by a ton to brokers while smaller tea farmers sell directly to retailers, importers and wholesalers.
Artisan Tea Gardens are usually only under 25 acres where tea is cultivated with a hands-on approach throughout the process. The growers have multiple generations of experience and expertise in manipulating hand-plucked leaves and vast understanding of the tea plants’ natural responses to its habitat.
Single Origin Tea Estates are sought after their signature style because they are known for producing fine loose-leaf teas that are not blended with leaves from other farms. They don’t strive to be consistent in flavour year on year and they cultivate teas that are valued for their unique flavour which are particular to the terroir of the estate on which they are grown.
Industrial Tea Estates are large tea plantations that use chemical fertilizers and pesticides to ensure a good harvest, and factory machinery to hasten the processing. They focus on quick and cheap production with few deviations from the tried and tested cultivars to ensure a continuous cycle of commercial tea mass production.