Thailand is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world. Although the country is known for many things but the hot and humid weather tends to be the most popular. To beat the heat, both the locals and tourists generously consume Cha Yen or Thai iced tea. Back in the day, Thailand did not have much tea variety to offer.
However, today things have slightly changed. There are several different types of Thai teas available that are sold from rickety carts on any given street corner. So, let’s dig a bit deeper and see how popular tea in Thailand actually is.
History of Tea Growing in Thailand
As mentioned earlier, Thailand did not have much to offer in terms of tea variety other than Cha Yen back in the day. However, until recently Thai people have managed to develop a tea culture of their own since Thailand tea producers have grown in number.
At the same time, the growing popularity of tea in Thailand along with its consumption is mostly driven by Chinese tea tradition and Chinese tea preferences. As a result, Thailand tea has been making rounds and is now famous at a global level too especially from the past few years.
The Thai Royal Projects
Thailand discovered that it could grow tree plantations under the leadership of King Bhumibol Adulyadej who planned to eradicate opium, which Thailand at the time was growing. This was done in an attempt to build Thailand’s reputation as a developed and modern country.
Therefore, the land and climate of Thailand were properly studied and plans to grow tea plantations were put forward.
While the tea plantations began, the King realized that the people would suffer since they were being deprived of their income without providing an alternative. This would prove detrimental to the economy as well.
Therefore, several Royal Projects were initiated and it came to the King’s realization that Thailand’s higher climate and altitude conditions that were inhabited by Chinese migrants and hill tribes could sustain crops such as tea.
Soon, cultivars of the best popular tea brands were imported from Taiwan into Thailand. In the early 1980s, the trade of opium along with its cultivation was outlawed. Therefore, tea cultivation and plantation became a necessary venture for Thailand to undertake, which has become immensely successful.
Another significant factor that played a huge role in cultivating the best Thailand tea was the Chinese communities that entered and settled in Thailand in 1961. This was the year when the Kuomintang refugees or the Chinese Nationalist Party fled to Thailand.
These people settled in the mountainous territories of Doi Wawee and Doi Me Salong. The KMT soldiers at the time not only assisted Thailand in the fight against communism but also brought their language culture, traditions, and ofcourse the love and rich heritage of tea enjoyment and cultivation.
Although the first harvest brought in some very good tea but Thailand’s journey was not over yet. The country only produced tea for its local market. However, in recent years, the tea cultivators of Thailand are gaining experience and knowledge to introduce better and different varieties.
So, in a nutshell, it was the Chinese inhabitants due to which tea was popular in Thailand and used the country’s fertile lands and soil combined with the perfect weather and climate conditions. As a result, Thailand soon became a key player in tea in the international market.
Tea Growing Regions in Thailand
Doi Mae Salong
Doe Mae Salong is one of the most ideal areas featuring perfect weather conditions for tea plantations and cultivation. It forms part of the Golden Triangle Area and the quality of tea produced here is proof of the perfect climate, altitude, soil, and topography.
The weather conditions allow the production of popular green tea, flavored teas, and jasmine-scented teas as well. In addition to that, Ginseng root teas along with Jiogulan tea are also produced here commonly known as the Chinese ‘immortality herb’.
The Doi Mae Salong region also produces internationally accepted Thai specialty teas such as black tea and Osmanthus Oolong known for their unique flavor and health benefits. Today, the country is filled with a variety of tea types, and both the locals and tourists do not hesitate to try them out since they are reasonably priced too.
The Best Tea Plantations in Thailand to Visit
The best tea plantations in Thailand to visit are Choui Fong plantations located in Chiang Rai. The area is known for its beautiful hillside curves, mountainous landscape, and eco-tourism. Then, in the Chiang Rai area are Hongfu Teas, famous for splendid flower fields, lush vegetation, and stunning valley views.
For tea-seeking travelers in Chiang Mai, head to the 2000 Tea Plantation for spectacular views of the strawberry farm and tea plantation. Chiang Mai also features Raming Tea, which is the sole manufacturer of black tea in Thailand.
The destination is known for cooler climates and fresh air, ideal for those seeking a peaceful area to visit. The tea plantation in this area involves a rigorous and delicate hand-picking process, leading to the best quality tea produced in the region.
Thai Speciality Teas
Thai speciality teas can be divided into two major categories including red and green tea. Although these varieties have been around for a while but the general population has a different understanding of both. Cha Yen or Thai iced tea happens to be the most popular tea in Thailand.
The tea is made using strongly brewed Ceylon tea, poured over ice and the color is red/orange. The tea can also be consumed without milk and utilizes sugar only. Lime Thai green tea is another type that is flavoured with lime and mint and sweetened.
Finally, Hot Thai teas are also popular that can be consumed with and without milk but always sweetened using sugar.
Getting Your Tea in Thailand
In Thailand, Chinatown remains the hub of traditional tea forms in Bangkok. Here, you will come across tea stalls and small shops that sell oolongs in open-bin form. This is the worst way of tea storage as it allows humidity and heat to degrade the flavor.
However, there are some shops that sell teas using more traditional and careful practices. If you wish to purchase fresh teas, you will have to ask in shops. They keep them properly stored, sealed, and refrigerated to ensure the best quality.
Thai teas are easy to purchase as they can be found in supermarkets, airports, and tea shelves. Apart from serving as a source to beat the heat, Thai teas are proven to offer several health benefits. In the international market, Thai teas compete head to head with some of the best tea manufacturers out there, which is a result of more than 100 years of tea plantation and cultivation. Therefore, if you are in Thailand, do take a sip or two of the specialty teas produced by the best cultivars in the country.