How does tea grow?
Did you know that all tea, despite its variety, is made from just one plant?
Considering that people have been drinking tea for over 5000 years, this is relatively new knowledge.
Only in 1843, the English botanist Robert Fortune (the one who stole the secret of tea production in China and transferred it to Darjeeling) established that the difference between black tea and green tea lies in processing technologies, and not in the use of different botanical plant species.
The question that teahouse has only one type has caused a lot of scientific controversy in its time. For example, at the beginning of the 19th century, thickets of giant tea trees were discovered in the Indian jungle, which outwardly looked very different from the tea bushes growing in China. It was then that the theory of the existence of a single type of teahouse was called into question. The problem was helped to resolve the work on the study of the wild flora of China, during which it was possible to obtain huge tracts of wild-growing tea in the provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, and Guizhou.
In 1962, scientific evidence appeared that tea originates from Yunnan and that it was the Yunnan variety of tea that was the primary tea jungle found in India, Laos, and Burma - these are the remains of wild trees that have survived from former settlements.
The tea tree can be several centuries old. In Yunnan, trees that are more than 2500 years old have been preserved. However, the lifespan of a typical tea tree grown on a plantation is much shorter.
The most active period in the life of a tree begins 5 years after planting, but with age, the yield decreases: when the tree ceases to produce the required yield, it is uprooted, updating the plantations. As a rule, the age of a tree on the plantation is 50 -70 years, and in Indian Assam trees live up to 90 -100 years.
Tea can grow up to 100 centimeters per year, but this requires a good climate.
What climate does tea need?
Climatic conditions both for the volume of the harvest and for the quality of the tea itself. Among the factors necessary for the productive growth of a tree, the following can be noted:
- Sunlight. Long daylight hours and plenty of suns. The length of daylight hours and the abundance of sunlight directly depend on, for example, aromatic substances in the tea leaf. Only under the influence of sunlight, water, and inorganic substances obtained by the plant from the soil enter into chemical processes. That is why tea made from high-altitude sunlight, which is characterized by an abundance of diffused sunlight, is of very high quality. With a lack of light and the aroma of the sun, the taste of tea becomes herbal, the tea becomes rough, not aromatic
- Temperature. Tea belongs to the thermophilic crops. Young tea shoots grow best at 20–30ºC. Although the tea tree is very hardy, in conditions of extreme heat or, conversely, sharp frosts, its leaves dry out and wither
- Humidity. The abundance of water is a sine qua non for the life of the tea tree. The plant must use new shoots, which explains its increased need for moisture. Severe drought, or vice versa, stagnation of moisture in the soil can not only reduce the quality of the tea harvest but also destroy the plant. Very often tea plantations are located "steps" on the slopes of the mountains, which allows for optimal soil drainage.
- The soil. The quality of future tea directly depends on the soil on which the tea tree is grown. He has a developed root system and a dense crown. The best soil is a combination of clay and limestone, such as the South China Karst, which stretches from the Tibetan Plateau to the southern coastal areas of China.
The connection of all these natural conditions with the quality of tea proves the best varieties of tea grow on high-altitude plantations.
The air temperature in the mountains is lower than in flat areas. This affects the activity of enzymes and, accordingly, affects the chemical composition of the tea leaf. For example, scientists have proven to contain more amino acids and aromatic compounds. Amino acids make the taste of tea more pure and rich, and aromatic substances give it a pronounced thick aroma.
Besides, high-altitude plantations have fairly high humidity. In such conditions, flushes retain their freshness for a long time and do not coarse.
The soils of high-altitude plantations are well structured and rich in various nutrients, which also has a beneficial effect on the quality of the tea grown. Of great importance is the fact that mountainous areas are usually ecologically clean zones.
Highland teas are softer and more aromatic than plain teas.
To obtain a good harvest, it is necessary to timely harvest the young tops of the tea bush, until they become tough and not suitable for the production of the famous drink. Most leaves are harvested manually, which takes a lot of time and human labor. The tea leaves are collected very carefully. If they are too large, they are too tough, and it is not economically profitable to assemble too small. Collectors collect flashes - these are the two top leaves and a tea bud (type). In hot climates, flashes appear every seven days, and in colder climates, twice as slow. The best flashes grow towards the end of the branch. A good picker can collect up to 80 kg. tea leaves from which about 20 kg are obtained. tea. But this is on average, for example, for the production of such tea as Yin Zhen, only 1 kg of tea is obtained from 100 kg of harvested leaves.