In Europe and Asia, Australia and America, in the Antarctic polar stations – wherever a human has been, tea is widely used – the world’s most popular drink. This is the most popular and at the same time full of immense mysteries for the most part of hot and cold, invigorating and soothing, fragrant and delicious drinks lovers. Then, what is this favorite of mankind? So get acquainted - the same tea!
Tea - the cousin of the most beautiful and aromatic flower - Camellia. Wild tea bushes reach three meters in height, while the largest cultivable bush height in plantations - one and a half meters.
For a long time, Europeans believed that Chinese tea bushes are the only species of tea, and only in the nineteenth century, after the discovery of the tea tree in the province of Assam, India, researchers had to acknowledge that there is another species of tea.
The tea bush sizes are determined by latitude, where they grow: the closer to the equator, the greater the tea bush is. Best of all the tea bushes are growing among tropic of Cancer and tropic Capricorn, from 500 to 3500 meters above the sea level. In order to produce high-quality tea leaves, besides the heat it requires humidity, humidity and again humidity.
Tea likes humidity in two ways: firstly, high humidity - well heated up sauna atmosphere, secondly, humidity in precipitation form, as well as in the form of frequent and abundant irrigation. But tea does not stand even the slightest roots soaking in water: the roots should get in contact with water, but not be in the water. That is why tea tends up along the mountain slopes, on steep terraced hills, where the water can quickly drain away, without draining into soil.
The tea bush has an amazingly long life expectancy - it can grow and be productive for one hundred years or more. True, it is necessary to distinguish between biological life period and the exploitable period. In practice, it is proved that at the distance of time the tea bush reduces the quantity of its "products" - leaves - and, partly, also the quality. It is therefore considered that it is efficiently to grow tea bushes in the valleys for 40-50 years and on the slopes for 60-70 years. This is also the exploitable period of the tea life.
Beautiful high-altitude plantations in Sri Lanka after 70-80 years of their existence were completely destroyed (cut). Two percent of the plantations are replanted every year. Plantations of tea bushes are planted in straight rows along the hills and mountain slopes. When planting in this manner, it prevents soil leaching in the rain period and increases tea yielding capacity. This allows achieving the continuous plantation maintenance at the peak of the productive age.
In this way, tea bush plantation life expectancy on average equals to one generation of the human lifespan.
Tea is only cultivated for its leaves. And harvested as many times a year, as long the tea vegetates in the area. In tropical countries - Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South India (Madras), where the summer is constant and where the tea vegetates continuously, the tea leaves are harvested in plantations throughout the year. In Northeast India (Assam) tea harvesting takes 8 months (from April to November), but further to the north - China - from two to four times a year.
Not all the leaves are picked from the bushes, but the most gentle, the youngest, soft and verdurous leaves, barely expanded, and sometimes even the unexpanded buds at the ends of the sprouts. These first two - three leaves with the tip of the stem, to which they have grown to, and the bud of unexpanded upper leaf – are called Flash.
In some countries, such as southern India, the Four Leaf flashes are harvested as well. Flashes are hauled off as soon as they appear, preventing overgrowth, so that they do not lose their softness. Overall, they represent a relatively small percentage of the total quantity of tea bush leaves. On the fourth year of bushes’ life when the first crop is harvested, about 200 g of flash are hauled off. However, the different agro-types have different amounts of the harvested flash in a kilogram of fresh leaves: it can be either 1500, as well as twice more.
In the past, in China, using the traditional way of tea managing, the harvest from the bush, which has acquired a standard form, was the same every year. Today, as a result of various agro-technical methods, which are used in the tea plantations in all tea producing countries, tea has increased its yielding capacity, and now varies, depending on the growing areas and agro-types from 2 to 12 thousand kg of green leaves per hectare.
In India, Assam, the average tea yielding capacity is 5.5 and maximum 12.5 thousand kg per hectare. But in other tea producing districts in India the yielding capacity is much lower: in West Bengal it is 2.5 to 3 thousand kg and in South India (Madras) it doesn’t exceed 2.7 thousand, and in the dry, unfavorable years it drops even lower, but in the most favorable periods and in the best plantations it is never more than 5-6 thousand kg (while the average is 3.5 thousand kg).
The variations of tea yielding capacity in Sri Lanka are very slight - from 7 to 7.5 thousand or in rare cases, 7.75 thousand kg, due to soil and climatic homogeny.
Depending on growing region, tea has the specific features of flavors, colours and aroma. Indian tea has a distinctly reddish hue, deep aroma and flavor. Tea from the island of Ceylon has golden color and a delicate aroma. Copper infusion and full-bodied, harmonic flavour is characteristic to Kenyan teas, and clean, bright and pleasant infusion, and a little harsh taste – to Indonesian teas.
Very popular is the Chinese green tea - the drink, taste and colour of this drink mark this tea out from the teas from other countries.