Previous in series: Teas of Vietnam and Southeast Asia
From South Carolina to Australia, English-speaking people have planted tea wherever they went, and not only in Asia and Africa. These efforts have produced teas less interesting than the stories about them – how South Carolina tea won the Gold Medal at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair where Darjeeling was used for the first iced tea, or how New Zealand came to produce green tea for Japan. America’s only tea plantations are in South Carolina and Hawaii, though experimental plantings thrive in Oregon. Climate and soil conditions are excellent for tea-growing in many places like these where labor costs make it uneconomical. That tea is produced worldwide is sad testimony to the grinding poverty of the Third World, for it is crop which provides only the barest subsistence to most of those who produce it. (Not all: India’s tea plantation workers fare well by local standards.) This makes one hesitant to wish Papua New Guinea or the Azores good luck with their teas.
One taste of Argentina’s tea is enough to pronounce a pox on it. Argentina’s mechanical plucking improved productivity over 2,000 percent, and it shows in the lowest quality obtainable anywhere. Argentina supplies around one-third of U.S. tea imports. Brazil, next door, produces a fair black tea and small amounts of green tea for Japan. Theoretically there is hope of locating another region with the greatness of a Darjeeling somewhere in the Andes, where Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru have been setting out small high-grown gardens. The Cuzco region now produces around two thousand tons annually. It is to such hills that we must lift up our eyes if we would look for new tea pleasures.