Tea consumption in Brazil is growing at twice the world’s average rate per year. It’s part of the growing interest and innovation across Latin America. Here’s a short extract fro a blog piece on Tea in Brazil, published in Tea Journey magazine. Click on the link for the full article.
Chimarrao… Cachaça… Quentao… Tea?
While 98% of households drink coffee, only a small fraction has even tried tea. Sixty cups of coffee are drunk for every one of tea.
That’s changing. The main reason is its appeal to people looking for a healthier lifestyle but also for its immense variety of flavors and styles.
There are so many other choices, too…. Herbal teas, an area where Brazil produces some world-renowned varieties (Brazilian mint tea was found in a major study to be more effective in curing fevers, headaches and flu than the drug indomethacin), iced tea, ready to drink canned and bottled tea, and even alcohol-based teas comparable to quentao.
So, Brazilians are discovering tea. More accurately, they are rediscovering it. At one time, Brazil grew a large amount of black tea, beginning around 1810. The Japanese influence on Brazilian tea farming is pervasive. In the early 1900s, immigrants from Japan who settled in Registro, near Sao Paolo, brought with them tea seeds from Sri Lanka and India. These grow into bushes that are hardy and excellent for growing black tea. The early seeds had been from Chinese bushes. By the 1930s, the 1,500 Japanese Brazilian growers in the Ribeira Valley region were thriving.
The climate was ideal for tea: subtropical, with the fertile acidic soil required to grow the best leaf. It was misty, providing the weather patterns tea requires. Registro had 50 processing plants handling 12,000 metric tons of black tea in 1987, most of it exported to Britain for blending in breakfast teas. That’s 5 billion cups of tea.
But the overvaluation of the currency in the 1980s made exports too expensive and the subsequent financial collapse wiped the industry out. Today production is beginning to grow again but is still less than 500 metric tons. That adds up to 200 million cups – just one cup per year per Brazilian man, woman and child. The gardens were abandoned.
Re-discovering tea across Latin America
Elsewhere in Latin America, farms are producing a wide range of teas that are organic and botaniical: AMA in Mexico offers a rich and flavorful amaranth tea, “the superfood of the Aztecs” going back 8,000 years. From Ecuador, Pacha and Waykana market guayasa tea from the Amazon Forest. Another Ecuador company, Tippytea blends a range of herbs and spices for tea, gathered in the Andes and Amazon. Most recently, tea growing in the high mountains of Colombia is being revived. Bitaco‘s teas are distinctive, bold and full.
The future of tea in Brazil will combine the traditions of fine whole leaf teas, mainly from Asia, with the new flavor varieties of Latin American herbs and spices. It will be a taste advenure.