The Teas of Argentina

Argentina, South America’s second largest country is one of the top ten tea pro-
ducing countries in the world, ranking 9th in 2006, with an annual production of
76,000 metric tons of tea.  With its subtropical climate, Argentina has the ideal
conditions for growing hybrid Indian and 
Assamica varietal tea bushes.
In the 1920s tea seeds were
brought to Argentina from
Russia, and the first non-native tea was
grown. In 1924 the Argentinian government
began urging farmers to try growing tea from
seeds that had been imported from China and
given to any farmers interested in experiment-
ing with trying to grow tea crops.
Farmers from the provinces of Misiones,
Corrientes, Formosa, Chaco, and Tucamen
tried cultivating the tea, along with immigrant
farmers who also experimented by planting
the imported tea on their land.

But low prices for tea on the

world market
caused most farmers to rethink growing it as a

main crop.  Tea that had been grown and processed was also considered to be inferior to that of
other foreign grown teas, all leading to small domestic production prior to 1951.
In 1951 Argentina’s government imposed an import ban on tea,
Since it was such a popular beverage locally and in high demand
by Argentinian citizens, increased cultivation of domestic tea
increased dramatically.

By 1952 new tea plantations were established in Misiones
Province located in northeastern Argentina.  The tea from these
new plantations was also of better quality than that previously cultivated.  The ever increasing
demand for tea encouraged more farmers to begin growing it and by the late 1950s, began
exporting tea to Chile.  Argentina continued to expand its export market over the years and today
is the ninth largest in tea production in the world, producing 64,000 metric tons in 2005, and
76,000 tons in 2006.

The highland region of the Misiones and
Corrientes provinces in northeastern Argentina
has the largest concentration of tea estates.
There the climate is hot and humid and the land
relatively flat to allow for highly mechanized har-
vesting and production. Tea is harvested during
Argentina’s summer months of November to May.

Argentina produces mainly black tea, with only
one percent of its annual production green tea.
Argentina exports approximately 50,000 metric
tons of tea annually with the largest export mar-
ket the

 United States, as well as the United
          Kingdom and other European countries.
CTC teas (cut-tear-curl) are pro-
duced and used primarily for 
blending, and in the U.S. where it’s mainly used for iced tea.
In 2006 seventeen of Argentina’s tea estates joined the
Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), which is a British run program
designed to protect the rights of workers and monitor
working conditions on estates that British tea blenders and
packers purchase their teas from.  ETP is similar in some
ways to Fair Trade objectives, but has different criteria.
(Visit our

Ethical Tea Partnership and Fair Trade pages to
learn more.)
Argentina is also known for its mate which is a tisane or

herbal tea made from the yerba
mate plant, which is a species of holly.  The vegetal tasting herbal drink is also becoming
popular in the 
U.S., and is Argentina’s national drink.  Although with the popularity of mate
increasing in Argentina, less and less is available for export.
Many of Argentina’s tea drinking customs and establishments
have been shaped by the Welsh who immigrated there seek-
ing cultural freedom in the 19th century, during a time when
the Welsh language was being suppressed in Great Britain.

Several Welsh tea houses located in the southernmost region
of Argentina in the towns of Gaiman and Patagonia have become popular with local
tourists.  Many of the Welsh tea customs are similar to those of Great Britain and Ireland,
with afternoon tea being served at approximately 4:00 p.m., with condiments of milk and
sugar, and offered together with English biscuits, cakes, and pastries.

In some Buenos Aires establishments a combination of Argentinian
cuisine and traditional British tea is served in the late afternoon

Earl Grey tea and scones, tarts, and finger sandwiches, along
with a menu selection of Argentine dishes such as asado de tira
(beef ribs).
Young Argentinians are also becoming increasingly influenced by
worldwide trends in tea beverages.  Everything from

                                               green teas to Moroccan mint tea is offered alongside traditional
beverages.  When Starbucks opened its first store in Argentina it
included a mate latte beverage on its menu in deference to the
country’s tea culture, and to mate, its national drink.