Author Box
Articles Categories
All Categories
Articles Resources

Road Trip Through Victoria's Green Tea Country

May 13, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 154

Many people are surprised to hear that green tea is grown in Australia. Australia isn't a traditional tea-producing country, although tea has been grown in North Queensland for several decades. Up there the high rainfall and warm temperatures are suited to year round production of black teas, similar to some of the low elevation-tea producing regions like Assam in India.

Back in the 90s, with the demand for green tea in Japan moving ever upwards, a number of Japanese companies began looking outside Japan for additional sources to supply its domestic and export markets. A few big Japanese companies conducted trials in Australia and other parts of the world, looking for places that had the right conditions for Japanese style green tea. A couple of spots in Victoria and New South Wales turned out to have all the right conditions, and now there are a bunch of green tea farms supplying those companies. There are also a few independent growers around and about.

With all this tea-action going on in our backyard, it seemed crazy not to go and check it out. So, just in time for the first Spring harvest or 'ichiban cha', I jumped in the car with one tea sommelier from a certain high end Melbourne restaurant, and another impressive woman about to open a tea bar in the inner north, and headed towards Victoria's tea country.

First stop was Matthew's farm in Alexandra, about two hours out of Melbourne. Matthew had run cattle on his property before signing up to supply green tea to Ito En - a Japanese company, which processes the tea at its factory in Wangaratta. Talking to Matthew, we started to get an idea of what was involved in taking on this growing task - nurturing hectares of tea bushes for four years before they could be harvested for the first time, getting the soil nutrient content right, monitoring the amino acid and tannin levels in the plants, irrigation and frost protection. Frost is a constant menace to the plants leading up to harvest and the farmers have sophisticated systems in place that activate sprinklers once the temperature drops below a certain level, and which also conveniently notify the farmers when this occurs - usually in the cold early hours of the morning! It really is an 'around the clock' job during the harvest.

By mid afternoon the processing machines were starting up at the Wangaratta factory so we left Matthew and continued north. When we arrived, temperature controlled containers of leaves were arriving at the factory from some of the other farms. Unlike black or oolong teas, green tea is not oxidised. It's important that the leaves are kept cool and are processed within hours of being harvested because exposure to the heat and air can allow the natural oxidisation process to begin. The factory was like a steampunk creation - a complex mechanical system of gauges and conveyors, and twisting, turning and revolving parts, designed to replicate each stage of traditional hand processing.

The tea makers can judge from the feel, smell and taste of the leaves whether or not the tea has been processed at the correct settings at each stage. Although machine processed, there can be quite a bit of variation in the processed leaves depending on the way the individual tea maker has operated the equipment. Nearly all the tea at the Wangaratta factory is processed to 'crude tea' and then sent to Japan for final processing and blending. A small amount is finished at the factory for domestic customers.

After spending a good three or so hours at the factory we went off in search of our couchsurfing accommodation for the night at Mary's nearby farm, where we retired shortly after being fed a variety of homemade treats. With wonderful hosts, a comfortable night's accommodation, and a tour of the gardens in the morning, this surely beat the local roadside motor inn!

On Thursday morning we dropped in on Antoinette and her husband a bit further down the road near Mt Beauty, who were in the process of harvesting. This was a relatively large farm (about 12 hectares), where they had previously grown tobacco.

Despite being done by machine, harvesting is a relatively slow and delicate process, as the farmer aims to take only the bud and top two leaves, and must account for any differences in height along the length of the rows.

The location was stunning and it was hard not to be impressed by the perfect rich green rows of tea plants covering the slopes of the property.

Farming is a tough gig by all accounts. So much goes into it, and at the end of the day, success or failure is at the whim of Mother Nature. Visiting the green tea farms and talking to the farmers really gave me an understanding of the balancing acts and trade-offs they must constantly make - whether here or anywhere else in the world. It also gave me an even greater appreciation for all the time, care, skill and labour, risk and expense that goes into creating the tea we enjoy every day.

Buy tea online at Tea and Sympathy.

I first had the idea to create Tea & Sympathy in 2010, with a dream to open a specialty tea bar where the oft' neglected tea drinker (and their coffee drinking cousins) could step out and enjoy good quality leaf teas from around the world, learn something new about tea, and taste teas they had never tasted before. This place would also sell your favourite teas to take home, and have personalised service but with no pushy sales staff. I wanted to create a timeless, universal tea haven for residents and visitors to the hamlet of Thornbury. I have done this and you can also buy tea online.

Source: EzineArticles
Was this Helpful ?

Rate this Article

Article Tags:

Tea Country


Tea Online


Buy Tea Online

Summer is a great time for crock pot recipes. It may be hot and humid outside, but you still need to make dinner for you and your family. You can’t barbecue every day. The weather won’t let you.

By: Reggie Bean l Food and Drink > Crockpot Recipes l October 25, 2012 lViews: 222

My favorite meal of the day has always been breakfast. Nothing beats the cooking odors emanating from the kitchen in the morning. Fresh brewed coffee and sizzling bacon are two of the most

By: Reggie Bean l Food and Drink > Recipes l October 25, 2012 lViews: 269

My first bratwurst was grilled and on a bun. That’s all it took to supplant polish sausage as my new number one. Luckily I’m part German, so there is no Polish guilt. I now try to incorporate

By: Reggie Bean l Food and Drink > Recipes l October 25, 2012 lViews: 342

Football season is upon us once again. Whether you are a fan or a disgruntled spouse, there is no reason you can't have an enjoyable day stuffing your face. Walk away from the processed frozen

By: Reggie Bean l Food and Drink > Recipes l October 25, 2012 lViews: 443

Crock pot recipes are perfect for football Sunday. When you wake up in the morning, just set up the crock pot with your favorite appetizer, barbecue or Sunday dinner and it will be ready to eat

By: Reggie Bean l Food and Drink > Crockpot Recipes l October 25, 2012 lViews: 220

Navy beans (as in most other beans) are high in dietary fiber which means it will help you feel full faster because they are so high in fiber. They are high in folate, magnesium, thiamin, iron, and

By: Jaya Patel l Food and Drink > Soups l July 13, 2012 lViews: 244

This article gives a brief overview of how to locate the best companies and brands from which to buy chamomile tea. The article explores the option of buying from tea companies vs. bulk herb

By: Alex Zorachl Food and Drink > Teal June 15, 2012 lViews: 550

Lapsang souchong is a type of Chinese black tea which is dried over pine fires, imparting a smoky aroma to the tea. This article explores several topics related to Lapsang souchong tea, including its

By: Alex Zorachl Food and Drink > Teal June 13, 2012 lViews: 1278

Keemun is a popular type of Chinese black tea. This article gives an overview of the caffeine content of Keemun, its health benefits, and its other properties. Lastly, it points the reader in the

By: Alex Zorachl Food and Drink > Teal June 12, 2012 lViews: 268

Irish breakfast tea is a widespread style of strong black breakfast tea, popular both in Ireland and elsewhere. This article discusses the ingredients (types of tea) used to produce Irish breakfast

By: Alex Zorachl Food and Drink > Teal June 12, 2012 lViews: 312

Ceylon black tea refers to any black tea that is produced in Sri Lanka. Ceylon black tea is a staple of British tea culture, and is consumed both on its own and as a common ingredient in breakfast

By: Alex Zorachl Food and Drink > Teal June 12, 2012 lViews: 261

Yellow tea is a broad category of tea, usually considered a distinct category alongside black, green, white, oolong, and hei cha (dark teas like Pu-erh). This article gives an overview of yellow

By: Alex Zorachl Food and Drink > Teal June 12, 2012 lViews: 231

Discuss this Article

comments powered by Disqus