The tea garden that produced our summer 2023 batch of Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong is an especially foresty plot of tea — especially in its current state! The owner of this plot of tea initially planted a lot of trees that have grown to nearly full size. The tea trees themselves have also been allowed to grow taller than usual, and were not trimmed after spring harvest.
Early May to early July is when the tea leaves grow the fastest. If the tea trees were trimmed after spring harvest, the new growth would have been more prolific and grown even more quickly. Allowing the plants to continually to grow naturally — without being trimmed — produces leaves with relatively more substance, having grown a bit more slowly. In other words, the tea trees were not forced to quickly regenerate. We believe this produces a better quality produce for the summer growing season.
Generally, shade trees are kept to a minimum in conventional high mountain farming methods, simply because more shade means less prolific growth of tea leaves. But again, during this growing season, when the sun is quite strong — more shade is beneficial for quality leaf material. Of course, it provides a relatively more natural environment as well.
Our friend who manages this farm told us that he plans to prune back both the shade trees and the tea trees following next spring's harvest. So by this time next year, this mountainside will look a lot different — for a year or two anyway! It was a beautiful day up on the mountainside that day of harvest, and this batch of tea was processed at a factory very nearby the farm at about 1,500m elevation. This also was a plus, given the heatwave we were having that week! The cool mountain air was much more conducive to optimal solar withering conditions. Overall, we feel like we got lucky with this batch of Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong Tea!
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