Tea is not just a beverage; it’s an emotion that comforts the soul during good and bad times. Tea lovers all over the world appreciate and savor the best quality tea that’s made from the finest tea leaves. The quality of tea depends on several factors, including region and climate, elevation, cultivars, plucking process and tea making methods.
Region and Climate
The region and climate where the tea is grown are crucial in determining its taste and flavor. Each region has its unique terroir, which influences the tea’s aroma, muscatel notes, and color. For instance, Darjeeling Tea from India is famous for its spring flush tea with a flowery aroma and bright, distinct liquor, while summer flush tea has a dark, amber color and a strong flavor. The quality of teas during monsoons is inferior due to excessive precipitation. The same goes for Assam black tea, known for its rich, malty flavor, which is cultivated in the region’s hot, sunny, and rainy conditions.
The elevation where the tea leaves are grown impacts many facets of its growing process, making a significant difference between an average and a good tea. Teas grown at higher altitudes have more complexity in flavor, creamy texture, and less bitterness. The slow growth process due to scarce sunshine and nutrients in higher altitudes augments the natural sweetness and aroma, especially in regions like Darjeeling.
Cultivars refer to the strains taken from the Camellia Sinensis tea plant and cultivated with specific practices to get the desired characteristics in a plant. Clonal tea, like AV2 from Darjeeling, is a prominent cultivar known for its excellent quality. Cloning of cultivars gives forth tea leaves with certain desired characteristics, which are blended to create a new cultivar of desired variety.
The plucking process has a profound effect on the yield and tea quality. Fine plucking involves only tender two leaves and the bud, while coarse plucking involves 3-4 leaves and the bud. The “two leaves and a bud” plucking process is considered the best balance between yield and quality. Hand-plucking achieves better quality due to more selective plucking, although it is also influenced by the pluckers’ gentleness and experience. Inexperienced pluckers lack knowledge of the subtle balance between hand pressure and tenderness, causing faster degradation and decline in quality.
The methodology that goes into the processing of the tea leaves is another critical parameter. Mass-scale mechanical processes cannot compare with the age-old orthodox practice, where every batch of plucked leaves is treated to a precise amount of withering, rolling, and oxidation determined by trained tea professionals to extract the best flavors and liquors from the tea leaves. Great care is taken in rolling and handling the leaves because they are delicate and susceptible to adulteration and damage. The timing of each process is critical in the ultimate outcome of the quality of the made tea.
In conclusion, the quality of tea is influenced by various factors, from the region and climate where it is grown to the tea-making method. Tea lovers can appreciate and savor the best quality tea that’s made from the finest tea leaves by understanding these parameters. A passionate and experienced tea maker who adheres to the best practices will produce a high-quality tea that can be enjoyed by everyone.