The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Vietnam Teas-Where and How They Are
Grown and Types and Styles Produced
Although tea has been drunk in Vietnam for thousands of years it has only been
grown and produced there since 1880 when the French arrived and developed
the first tea plantations in Pho Tho, which lies northwest of Hanoi.  By the 1940s
they were exporting nearly 2,500 tons of black tea to Europe, and green tea to
Africa.
By 1954 a number of new
plantations had been established in the
north with help from Russia and
China.  More
new tea farms were further developed in the
northern, central, and southern lowlands.

In Vietnam's remote northernmost mountain
regions that border both China's
Yunnan and
Guizhou provinces, ancient tea trees were
located, growing in cultivated groups of 30 to
40 trees.

But where the large industrialized estates
are planted with the Trung Du varietal of
Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, the ancient,
wild trees found in the mountains are from
the Shan varietal of Camellia sinensis var.
assamica, including the Shan Tuyet cultivar.

                                               During WWII, the First Indochina War of 1946-1954 and the war
                                               with America, Vietnam's tea production came to a near stand-
                                               still.  In the 1980s they began to slowly rebuild their tea industry
                                               with help from various countries, including
Japan, who helped
                                               
Vietnam establish production of sencha style green tea to sup-
                                               plement their growing tea demands.

Later
India provided technical assistance
with producing
black tea, a style the green
tea drinking Vietnamese were not familiar
with.  
Taiwan taught them how to produce
pouchong style (very lightly oxidized)
oolong
tea, which is still manufactured there today
in Lam Dong Province, located in the central
highlands.

During the mid 1970s, five tea growing re-
gions were developed in the northwest, the
midlands, the northern central coastal areas,
northern highlands, and Viet Bac, which lies
north of Hanoi and was the stronghold of
the Viet Minh during the First Indochina War
of 1946-1954.  Lam Dong is Vietnam's lar-
gest tea growing region with over 20,000 hectares of cultivated tea, producing over 100,000
tons of fresh tea leaf yearly.

                                                Tea is manufactured in both large scale processing units, with up
                                                to date machinery and the newest technology, and by small-
                                                holder farmers producing small quantities of artisan made tea.
                                                The smallholder farmers play an important role in the tea indus-
                                                try in these areas, selling either fresh leaf for processing or
                                                
processed green tea.

                                                Over 500,000 smallholders have been allocated land and are
                                                under contract to sell a certain percentage of fresh leaf to state
                                                owned farms.  Some are contracted to supply leaf to medium or
                                                large processors, while still other smallholders sell most of their
                                                leaf on the open market.  

          The total amount of tea cultivated land is about 140,000 hectares today, with annual tea
          production around 145,000 tons.  Sixty percent of production is
          
CTC (cut-tear-curl) black and orthodox leaf, 35% is green tea, with
          the remaining 5% made up of specialty teas, including yellow tea,
          
jasmine tea, lotus tea, ball-rolled oolong, and a specialty tea called
          Shan Tuyet or Snow Green Tea.

          The types of Vietnamese teas of most interest to world buyers today
          include various large leaf, small leaf, and
fannings grade black teas,
          large leaf, and green fannings, gunpowder, jasmine,
lotus flavored,
          and cinnamon flavored green tea, pouchong, ball-rolled oolongs, and
          
yellow tea (with demand for yellow teas quickly growing in the West).

                                               Shan Tuyet, a specialty tea is made from the ancient indigenous
                                               tea trees found only in the remote mountain provinces in the
                                               northern uplands.  There the shan trees grow in the forest, 30 to
                                               40 to a group, growing amidst other types of trees on steep
                                               slopes.  Local varieties of shan trees that grow there include
                                               green leaf shan (shan la xanh), small leaf shan (shan la nho),
                                               yellow leaf shan (shan la vang), and snow shan (tuyet).

                                               A traditional type of tea made locally from shan leaf is Ha Giang
                                               brown tea, made by quickly drying fresh shan leaf in a cast iron
                                               pan, hand rubbing to shape the leaves, then laid in the sun to
          dry.  The finished tea is then placed into hollow bamboo tubes and left to age and
          mellow.
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Yellow and green Vietnamese teas made from shan have a clean fruity taste, and black
Shan Tuyet teas are mellow, smooth, and sweet and have a flavor that's a bit reminis-
cent of some
China blacks.  White Shan Tuyet teas are just in the experimental stage
but will soon be available, too.  These high mountain
specialty teas are just beginning to
show up in markets both locally and internationally.

Today Vietnam ranks 5th in world tea production, and 6th in tea exports.  Over 113,000 tons of tea is exported
annually and found in over 100 countries, with ever increasing sales to Russia, the United States, and Malaysia.

                                               The Vietnamese trademark, CheViet, has been in use since 2005 and is recognized
                                               today in over 70 countries.

                                               Vietnam has worked hard to come back from a nearly defunct tea industry.  Today they
                                               are poised and ready to become a leader with quality teas they are proud of.  Look for
                                               the CheViet trademark and try some of their teas, and I'm sure you'll agree, they've
                                               succeeded with style.  
Enjoy.