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Elevation, Latitude, And Tea Quality (Tea Terroir Part III)

Quick recap of the first two tea terroir blogs (read the first one here):

Tea terroir is the set of environmental factors that influence the taste and overall characteristics of a tea. Climate and weather are some of the many factors that make up tea terroir. The best quality tea is picked before rainfall, dusted with a light frost, and exposed to just the right amount of sunshine.


Elevation is an important element to consider when assessing a tea’s terroir. Many

of the best teas in the world are grown on mountainsides at altitudes of up to 5,000 feet. This is

in part due to the fact that altitude and weather are correlated. Tea grown in shadier areas tends to be better quality and elevated regions are usually cooler than nearby regions at lower

altitudes. Therefore, plants that grow at higher elevations grow more slowly and have better

flavor than those grown at lower altitudes. Additionally, there can be interesting nutrients in

rocky soil that may not be found in flat land soil. Overall, elevation itself may not be responsible for the quality of tea but there are many factors closely correlated to elevation such as weather and soil composition that strongly influence tea flavor.


Latitude determines the length of the growing and harvesting periods. The closer to the

equator, the more frequently farmers can harvest tea. To understand this part of terroir, let's consider two countries with significant tea production and very different latitudes: Kenya and Japan. Kenya is located in East Africa and the equator runs directly through the middle of the country. Most of Japan on the other hand is situated between the 35th and 40th parallel north. Shizuoka prefecture, where 50% of Japanese tea is grown sits right on the 35th parallel north. The different tea harvest periods between these two countries is significant. Tea can be grown and harvested year-round in Kenya whereas Japanese teas can only be harvested between late April and early October (Spring and Summer seasons). Japanese teas have 5 distinct harvest periods between April and October that have different attributes and offer varying tea grades.


So far we've gone over how climate, weather, elevation, and latitude influence the taste of tea. Terroir is truly full of complexity and nuance!

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