The ideal timing and frequency of harvesting fresh tea leaves is dependent on environmental conditions and ultimately impacts on tea flavour and quality. At Zealong, they generally harvest the leaves three times per year in spring, summer and autumn. They pick two leaves and the bud – the fresh growth between harvests.
- Ask students to think about and discuss what impact the time of harvesting and the parts of the plant that are picked may have on quality and flavour of the processed tea.
- Have students read the article to understand how different tea-processing methods create different types and flavours of tea.
- Students could complete the student activity and consider which leaves and plant parts were used in each tea tasted.
In tropical countries, they sometimes pick weekly – because it’s so hot and humid, the plants will grow new shoots every single week. So once they’re finished, they can start again the week after and so on. Now here, the climate is fairly moderate, so we get three harvests, which is quite common actually for tea growing.
And you’re looking at the first 3 weeks of November, January and March, so we call them the spring, summer and autumn harvest. Optimal picking time would be when the shoot is not too small, not too big and still very, very tender and almost translucent and a very nice bright shade of green.
Depending on the quality you’re looking for, you will pick different parts of the plant. You could pick just the top bud or a bud and a leaf or a bud and two leaves, and then for the lower qualities, you will pick more than that, you will just go lower down the stem. We pick two leaves and the bud or the top three leaves because this is the fresh growth from the plant in between harvests.
This is where all the good stuff is basically – all the nutrients, amino acids, all the vitamins and all the antioxidants as well, all the polyphenols that will contribute to the health benefits that have been associated with tea but also to the colour and the taste of the tea.
Fabien Masionneuve & Vincent Chen, Zealong Tea
Zealong, Eterna Holdings Ltd