Tea was first grown in Brazil in 1812. The 19th century tea industry in Brazil was heavily dependent on slave labor, and when slavery was abolished in 1888 the tea trade collapsed.
Starting in the 1920’s, however, Japanese immigrants introduced tea seeds from Sri Lanka and India. Prior to this time, only Chinese tea varieties had been grown in Brazil.
The main tea producing region of Brazil is near Registro, a coastal city a few hours drive from Sao Paulo. This area is part of the Brazilian Highlands and forms a terrain of low rolling hills that are ideal for mechanized tea production.
The tea growing season in Brazil is from September to April and the climate is hot and humid. The relatively low altitude of most of Brazil’s tea plantations, however, produces a tea which is less flavorful than high altitude teas.
Because they are lacking in flavor, Brazilian teas are ideal for blending, and the majority of Brazilian tea is produced for this purpose. The tea is used for both iced tea and hot tea blends with about 70% of the total tea production being sold to the United States.
The Future of Tea in Brazil
Tea is a relatively small industry in Brazil. During the peak period of the 1970’s annual tea production was about 11 million kg and there has been a steady decline ever since. In recent years, however, tea producers have been focusing their efforts in increasing the quality of Brazilian teas and have seen a small increase in market share.
There has also been an expansion to the production of specialty teas such as herbal tea and fruit tea. Production of yerba mate tea is also on the increase. Although not a true tea from the Camellia sinensis plant, mate is popular in Brazil and, increasingly, other parts of the world. Brazil currently imports mate from Argentina, but with increased domestic production it may eventually become an exporter.
Brazilian green tea is also enjoying success. New plantations in the southern state of Paraná are steadily increasing their production of green tea.