What factors are critical for the growth of quality tea leaves?
During my childhood when I used to visit Darjeeling, I wondered how come the tea bushes are growing so well in the mountains. With its spreading root system, tea bushes are perfectly adapted to growing in the steepest mountain regions and cultivated in extreme conditions found on the steep gradients. In fact, sloping grounds that drain naturally are ideal for tea cultivation. The mountain regions offer the perfect climatic conditions for the cultivation of tea; temperature drops between 17-18F for every 5,000 feet of altitude e.g. if the temperature is around 95F in the valley, it will be around 77F in the tea gardens situated around 5,000 feet higher up. In Darjeeling, plantations can be found as high as 7,000 feet. At such high altitudes, low temperature impacts bud growth and minimizes the yield but it also influences the quality of the leaves, especially its fragrance and infusion characteristics. The problem at such high altitude and gradient is doing cultivation. In many cases, the slopes are so steep and dangerous that anyone can lose their balance. The picture shows one of such tea gardens that I visited last year where cultivation has been extremely difficult but kudos to everyone who works there and brings us a fresh and delightful cup of Darjeeling tea every morning!