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Sunshine & Tea Quality (Tea Terroir Part II)

Quick recap of the first tea terroir blog (read the full blog here):

Tea terroir is the set of environmental factors that influence the taste and overall characteristics of a tea. Climate is one of the many factors that make up tea terroir. The best quality tea is picked before rainfall and exposed to light frost.


The amount of sun and shade a tea plant receives also influence the flavor in your cup. Tea plants require some sunshine to grow but too much and the quality of the tea will plummet. When grown in areas with a lot of strong sunlight, tea will grow faster and potentially take on a bitter flavor. Since it is growing faster, the plant uses its resources towards growing new leaves instead of storing them in smaller buds for longer.


Conversely, if tea receives just enough sunshine to survive, it will allocate all its precious resources to its small buds, giving those buds a complex biochemical profile AND depth of flavor. This is the same phenomenon that happens with varying rainfall patterns: too much rain and the plant will grow quickly and lose its complexity.


The number of hours a tea plant spends in the sun and the shade every day is another part of its terroir characteristics. The optimal average amount of sunlight for the tea plant is 5 hours every day. However, tea grown at an elevation and only receiving 2-3 hours of sunlight per day may be of better quality because the leaves are growing more slowly. Less sunlight encourages the production of certain aromatic oils that give the tea a complex and rich flavor; these teas are generally considered to be of superior quality. Tea plants receiving more than 5 hours of sunlight per day will have a stronger, less pleasant flavor.


A recurring theme that will arise as we talk about terroir and the quality of tea is that leaves that grow slowly tend to have better flavor than leaves that grow quickly. This being said, the plant needs to survive so although reducing the plant’s resources causes it to grow more slowly, it is important to strike a balance and expose it to enough rain and sunlight to live.


In next week's post, I'll expose Matcha green tea's terroir characteristics that follow a meticulous formula, refined and mastered by the Japanese.

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