There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,Ecclesiastes 1:3
This is certainly the case for growing and harvesting tea leaves, and tea masters know the seasons can have an impact of flavour!
Tea comes from the plant, Camellia Sinensis. Tea trees are almost constantly in a state of germination, which is affected by climate and weather. Green tea flavour and aroma is the most affected by weather and climate changes. Too wet or dry, fluctuating temperatures, and frost can affect the quantity and quality of all the types of leaves and buds. Typically germination slows during the winter months (Dec-Feb), so most harvesting takes place bi-annually: Spring and Fall. Some areas are able to harvest 2 or 3 times.
Fresh leaves and buds harvested in the Spring are highly valued because they have had more daylight and more time to grow and absorb nutrients. It provides the tea with lighter flavour profile and sweet floral notes. Buds are picked along with two to four leaves, depending on the tree type, tree age, and the season. Older trees are more established and resilient, so more leaves will be picked. Those leaves are generally richer in flavour. Green and white teas are ordinarily harvested in the Spring and require minimal processing.
Larger farms will also harvest in summer, particularly those who provide tea leaves for mass distribution. These leaves grow quickly and provide a bolder flavour than those harvested in the Spring. But they also have little natural sweetness so are normally used as a base for flavoured teas.
While black, darjeeling and some white teas are harvested in Fall, it is the optimal season for Oolong tea. Oolong tea is neither green or black tea, and is processed differently. Tea masters can extract different flavours and aromas with the same leaves by adjusting that process. I will be discussing Oolong tea in another post. Tea harvested in the Fall has a fuller body and richer colour than Spring teas, and contains stronger floral or malty notes.
Regardless of the season…
…or at least tea!
Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm… what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity.Oscar Wilde