Farming is quite challenging and never has a certain outcome, being affected by a number of variables, and tea farming is no exception. Not enough rain at the right time. Too much rain at the wrong time. Too hot. Too cold. Weeds choking out the plants and robbing them of nutrients and water. Pests eating the leaves (unless it’s the leafhopper essential to producing Oriental Beauty oolong). Elephants trampling through the garden. And so on. The tea farmer can often find himself in a hurry to harvest, rushing to the flush, as it were.
Then, there’s the labor issue. Finding people who know how to pluck properly. Certain teas require a certain way of plucking the leaves off the bush. This photo below by Norman Shu, brother of Thomas Shu who processes great oolong teas from the nation of Taiwan, shows expert plucking of only the two-leaves-and-bud pairing they wanted for the special oolong being produced:
Tea farmers also need workers willing to be out in sun and heat, as well as steaminess. It’s often sauna conditions. This photo from Cre Ar Te Blends de Té shows one woman’s solution to dealing with such conditions:
Paying a wage to attract both skilled and sturdy workers can be a problem, since the price of the harvested leaves can be determined at auction and often not cover the expenses of that labor. Yes, rather challenging to be a tea farmer. And that is why I continue to write about, promote, and spread the word about tea……not that stuff in a bag, but the good stuff.
Check some out at your favorite tea vendor. Go exploring!
© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text