A good cup of tea is the result of three elements: the heavens, the earth and the people – tian (天), di (地) ren (人).
Tian (天) – The Heavens
Good tea is dependant on the weather. If the climate is right during the growing season and also during the time of production, then you have the beginnings of fine quality tea. We say beginnings because there is still a tonne of work to be done from here in order to get those great teas we all love to drink. But depending on the weather conditions at various stages of the tea leaves’ lifecycle, it’ll have a knock-on effect on all subsequent steps.
Clouds rolling through the mountains, bringing mist and dew to the tea trees
e.g – The perfect weather conditions for the withering stage is, in general, an overcast day with a small breeze. The producers would generally wait until the right conditions before beginning to wither the tea, even if it means starting the process late in the afternoon, going on until past midnight and getting up before the crack of dawn to finish off a single batch of tea, and then repeating that process again.
Withering tea leaves outdoors on an overcast afternoon
Di (地) – The Earth
The type and quality of the soil as well as the environment is critical to creating fine quality tea. As the tea grows, it absorbs the nutrients of the earth and soil it is grown in. And this is one of the reasons why tea from different regions show different characteristics that are unique to that region – e.g. different Dancong teas from the Wudong mountains, despite all having unique flavour profiles, all have a sweet, slightly mineral and fruity note running through them. This is a unique flavour that is unique and specific to that region – tea farmers often refer to it as the tea’s “shan yun” (山韻), or it’s mountain character.
The soil in the Phoenix Mountains, Chaozhou
Wuyi Rock Tea Plantation
Ren (人) – The People
Finally, we have the people. This is the tea producer, whose knowledge, skill and expertise is required to tease out all the flavours and complex characteristics inherent within the tea leaves. The expert producer will also know how to adjust their techniques and processes depending on the weather conditions and how they would’ve affected the quality of the tea leaves.
Mr. Lin, one of our tea supply partners, shaking the leaves, a crucial step in the production of Phoenix Dancong teas
This is also the tea brewer, whose understanding of the qualities of different types of tea and whose technique is required to extract the most out of the leaves; to bring out the flavours that the producers have teased out of the tea leaves, waiting for it to be extracted.
Traditional Chao Zhou Gongfu Cha
Finally, this is the tea drinker, the one who appreciates the depth, flavour and aroma of the tea. The one that appreciates all the hard work and dedication that goes into making a fine cup of tea.
Sydney Tea Festival 2017
All the flavours and varieties of real tea – true tea – is a result of the these three elements (tian (天), di (地) ren (人)). They are more than just dried leaves and funky flavours. They don’t require the addition of essential oils or any artificial flavours or additives. Exploring what nature alone has provided would require a lifetime of dedication. There is such a wide variety of tea available and such incredible depth – all of this stemming from a single plant, camellia sinensis. One ingredient, infinite possibilities. Pretty cool huh?