A tea plantation is a farm dedicated to growing varieties of camellia sinensis, the plant commonly known around the world as tea. Growing and selling tea has become a worldwide practice, though some areas are better suited to growing it than others, and it is generally considered to be a valuable commodity. Tea production usually occurs in multiple stages, including cultivation, harvesting, processing and selling. Plantations may maintain all of the processes beyond the growing and harvesting stages or sell the leaves to other businesses for processing.
Growing tea requires the right climate, soil conditions and rainfall amounts for success, which confines the crop to several areas in the world, including parts of China and India. As a result, a tea plantation is usually situated within one of these regions. Tea leaves come in different varieties, which may or may not be grown separately. While some plantations blend several varieties during the growing process, others separate their tea crops during planting and any blending is done during processing.
There are a few major varieties of tea leaves grown on a tea plantation. Green and black teas are generally the most prevalent varieties. White and oolong teas also are often grown and sold. A tea plantation may be a large, commercial operation or a small, boutique farm. These smaller tea plantations focus their efforts on high-end crops that are coveted as specialty teas and, thus, draw higher prices.
Lighter teas such as white and green varieties are often harvested from early or mid-growth leaves. Mature leaves are often used to make oolong and black teas. Once harvested, most tea leaves are fermented, which breaks down some chemicals in the leaves and produces other chemicals, such as caffeine. This fermentation process might occur at the tea plantation where the tea is grown or in a factory setting after the leaves are sold.
Tea manufacturing involves taking the fermented leaves and putting them into a form that can be sold. This process can occur at a tea plantation, though it also can occur at separate facilities. Bulk teas are often sold loose in bags, and single-serving teas are processed before being bagged individually. Various types of packaging processes are involved in tea manufacturing, depending on the variety and quantity available at a particular plantation.
The process of tea production is often split up into stages at different facilities. One tea farm may sell its product to multiple facilities for use in different products, while others may sell to a particular customer. Tea plantations also may contain their own processing facilities, because it can minimize costs and help ensure product quality.