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Tea picking (every tea’s first processing step)

Tea picking

Tea picking is the first operation in making any type and variety of tea. The way your leaves were picked, and the attention paid to this process, already have an influence on the quality of your tea. In this post, we describe this important step in more details.

Tea picking practices

Every tea variety has different requirements and challenges concerning the picking of the leaves. Some varieties are only made with the tinniest buds or tips. Other varieties need their leaves to be fully grown. Some leaves are picked from neatly aligned bushes, while others are picked on trees that are sometimes two meters high. Independently of the needs regarding its picking, handpicked tea is always better than tea picked by machines.

Experienced local tea pickers are very adept at harvesting leaves according to the demands of the regional varieties. The speed at which they pick leaves is quite impressive. They usually carry some sort of basket, into which they immediately put the picked leaves

Tea picking seasons

In most regions, tea can be picked in spring, summer, and autumn of the lunar calendar. Only in the warmest regions is tea also picked in winter. This is normally the tea plants’ resting season. Once the tea picking season has started, new buds will grow every day. Therefore picking tea is a process, rather than a one day event. Every day brings its share of leaves ready to be picked. If they are left on the plant, they will overgrow their ideal size (which is different for every tea variety). Old leaves can not be used for making tea.

Both sunshine and rain will accelerate the growth of the tea leaves. Too much rain can be a problem for tea farmers. The leaves will grow fast, but there is too much humidity in the air and on the leaves to let them properly dry (the second step in tea processing). This is one reason, why tea picked in early spring, before the first rains is often considered the best.

In the picture above, you can see a tea farmer picking tea on a big leaves tree in Yunnan.

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