Tea Plant - Cultivation


Young plants are raised from cuttings obtained from a mother bush and they are carefully rooted and cared for in special nurseries until they are 1 to 2 years of age.The mother bush is carefully selected for propagation based on individual properties and yield. The tea plants can then be transplanted out in the tea fields. This process is known as cloning. Tea can also be grown from seed, however, due to the degree of difficulty, cloning is the most widely used method of cultivating tea. Tea bushes are planted from three to four feet apart and planted in rows which follow the natural contour of the landscape. Tea is also grown on specially prepared terraces to help irrigation and to prevent soil erosion.

Pruning and Plucking

When the tea plants reach a height of about one to two feet above ground, it is cut back and pruned to within a few inches off the ground. Trimming back encourages new shoots to form and increases yield. Regular 2 to 3 year pruning cycles encourages a fresh supply of new shoots and further increases yield.

Harvesting fresh young shoots from the mature tea bushes is known as plucking. The location of the leaves relative to the tea bush greatly determines the quality of the finished product. The youngest emerging buds are often reserved for the finest quality teas and are graded as flowery pekoe or more commonly known as tips. The next set of leaves from the end of the growing stem are classified as orange pekoe and pekoe respectively. The older and largest leaves closest to the main stem are called souchong. Although this initial grading during the plucking phase can determine the final product value, it is the handling and manufacturing techniques that will weigh in the most when determining market price at auction.

Harvesting is carried out throughout the growing season and is referred to as the "flush" of a particular tea. The flush of a particular tea is determined at the time of plucking. "First flush" is known as the early spring plucking of new shoots. "Second flush" is harvested from late spring through early summer, yielding teas with more body and fuller flavor. While autumnal flush is the late season harvest. Harvesting is a skilled job traditionally carried out by women and done by hand. Expert care is taken while plucking the shoots. The leaves are carefully pinched and twisted when removed from the tea bush. Handfuls of shoots are then placed into the carrier baskets resting on their backs. After the tea is harvested in the fields, it is brought directly to the tea factory where it is further processed.

This article was taken from IMPERIAL TEA GARDEN. Read the original article