It’s summer, which means summer travel and the chance to go out and explore new places. What better destination for a tea lover to explore than tea fields across the world?!
Depending on your favorite type and origin of tea, your travel interest, your time and budget, you could visit tea plantations in the US, such as South Carolina or Hawaii, or, if you’re more into international travel, listed below are a few of the top tea destinations around the world.
Most of the below locations will have tea picking and processing going on throughout the spring and summer, though to see the picking in action, you need to be an early riser: tea-picking usually happens just after dawn in the cooler morning hours. Depending on the location, some may have a bigger annual celebration in the early spring (April-ish) or in the late fall.
Note for American travelers: visits to most of these places requires advanced planning, including obtaining visas and immunizations prior to departure. Also, be sure to research and contact your destination of choice to find out if they’re still welcoming visitors and that you can find accommodation as some are remote or just offer family farm houses.
The origin of tea must, of course, be listed first among the top tea destinations. While many, many parts of the country could be included, I’ve narrowed it down to 2 very special areas of tea cultivation in China. Note: Americans will need a visa issued prior to departure to visit China.
Home of the famous LongJing (Dragon’s Well) Green Tea, Hangzhou is one of the most accessible tea destinations on this list. It is located 1-hour by high speed train from Shanghai, and has an abundance of 4- and 5-star hotels nearby, as well as exceptional restaurants. You can hike on paved paths up the mountains alongside tea fields, and if you visit early enough in the spring and summer mornings, you’ll see tea pickers in the fields.
There is also the very well done (in English) China Tea Museum, complete with the history of tea, different tea types, interactive exhibits, and tea tastings.
Much farther west in China is Pu’er County, Yunnan Province, home of the ancient tea trees and fermented Pu-erh tea. The fastest way to get there is to fly into Kunming, then take another 40 minute flight to Pu’er. Once there, you can visit the China Puer Tea Exhibition Garden, which includes tea fields, Pu-erh museum, and tea processing center, but requires a 50 CNY entrance fee.
Alternately, you can book a tour through the Peach Stream Resort and Tea Plantation, which will provide a guided tour of the tea-making process and include a cooking class and lunch.
Another highlight of a visit to Pu’er is interacting with the region’s 5 ethnic minority groups, with their distinct cultures, clothing, food, and language. The Mekong River, in China known as Lancang Jiang, also flows through here.
Perhaps more accessible for Americans, visiting Japan does not require a visa, and still offers an exceptional tea travel experience, with stunning vistas.
Producing nearly 40% of Japan’s tea, Shizhuoka is the largest tea producing region in Japan. The World Tea Museum is located in the tea-growing area of Makinohara, which has its annual celebration in late October, called World O-Cha (Tea) Festival.
If you’re looking for something a little more private and personalized, Ayumi Kinezuka, UC-Berkeley-educated daughter of a Japanese tea farmer can show you around her family’s tea farm and even let you help pick tea.
As a special highlight of this region, on a clear day, is that you may even be able to see Mt. Fuji in the background.
Located south of Kyoto, Uji is said to be the oldest tea growing region in Japan, and also to produce the best tea. The best time to visit is May when the tea-picking season is just beginning.
To visit a tea field, contact Obubu Tea in Wazuka, Kyoto for a tour.
If you prefer black tea over green, oolong, or pu-erh, India just may be the destination for your tea visit. Traveling to India requires that Americans obtain a visa prior to departure; a tourist visa is typically valid for 10 years.
A high mountainous region producing some of India’s highest quality tea, Coonoor, Tamil Nadu in the Nilgiris region has the Dodabetta Tea Factory and Museum. You will learn about the history of tea in India, evolution of tea in the Nilgiris, and may even be able to see tea manufacturing happening live.
Famous for it’s Ceylon black tea, Sri Lanka has more recently started offering green and white, as well.
Located in Hantane, Kandy, the Ceylon Tea Museum is one of Lonely Planet’s Top Picks as an essential stop on any Sri Lankan Tea tour. The museum is located in a refurbished tea factory and boasts a collection of tea plants and tea processing machinery.
If Africa is your destination of choice, Kenya, while famous for coffee, also produces tea, mostly CTC black tea.
With just a 40 minute drive from Nairobi, you can find yourself in some of Kenya’s oldest tea fields. Kiambethu Farm will show you around their tea plantation and provide lunch, if you book in advance and get there by 11am.
Did I mention that tea plantations are in some of the most beautiful places in the world? All this talk of traveling to tea destinations makes me eager to hit the road!
What’s your first choice destination for a tea holiday? Leave a comment below and tell us where you wish you were going this summer!