Tea grows in many different countries on Earth. But the way tea is harvested can vary from nation to nation. Today we want to show you the exciting differences of the tea harvest and look at the three regions Japan, Taiwan and Nepal!

 

Harvest Tea Tea HarvestIng Methods Darjeeling Tea Field
Tea plucker in Darjeeling, India

Influencers on harvesting methods

Growing good, high-quality tea leaves is a challenge. Harvesting the leaves afterwards without any loss of quality and bringing them to the production site is a whole other challenge. In small Nepal, for example, tea plants have been cultivated for many decades. In some regions even valuable camellia Sinensis var can be found. Sinensis find tea plants from China and not the more robust native Assamica tea pancakes as usual.

In Nepal, however, tea has only recently been grown, which can compete with the high-quality varieties from northern India or China. The tea plants have been around for a long time, the climate is ideal for tea cultivation, there are enough workers. For a long time, the problem of the Nepalese was that they (a) did not know which part of the plant to harvest, and (b) had no means of processing the tea in the country.

The harvested tea leaves had to be brought to neighbouring Darjeeling in northern India. As a result, the leaves lost a lot of quality. The Indians, who had the opportunity to process the leaves and sell them relatively profitably on the international markets, still benefited the most. The Nepalese, on the other hand, received little money for their leaves and could hardly benefit from the value chain.

The example of small Nepal shows us how immensely important it is to be able to harvest the tea properly. Harvesting the leaves incorrectly can be accompanied, on the one hand, by a massive loss of quality and, on the other hand, for the producers in the worst case, a life on the minimum subsistence level.

In order to make no mistakes in the harvest of the precious tea leaves, it is first of all important to know what kind of tea you want to make. For a lovely green tea you need different leaf material than for a complex and sweet oolong tea. The timing of the harvest also has a significant influence on the quality of the teas.

 

Harvesting methods in Nepal and India

Let’s stay in the Himalayas and see how to harvest tea in Nepal and Darjeeling. On the steep mountain slopes of the Himalayas, it is impossible to use large machines. That’s why the tea here is plucked by hand. Most of the people who stand here in the fields do not identify as Indians, but from Nepalese Ghorka. They skilfully pick the delicate, soft and light green leaf shoots and young leaves of the tea plant by hand. The leaves are collected in a basket, which they carry on their back.

Although there are many workers in Nepal and India, people are slowly yearning for a life in the city.

Teapicking Darjeeling Himalyas Darjeeling Glenburn
Tea plucker at Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling

Harvesting methods in Taiwan

In Taiwan, the small island in the Chinese Sea, many places still pick them by hand. Taiwan produces a lot of oolong tea, for which slightly more ripe and larger tea leaves are harvested than most black or green teas. The so-called “oolong pick”, which consists of the top 4-5 leaves of the tea plant, is very difficult to pick with the bare hand. That’s why the pickers wear small razors on the thumb to make it easier to cut off the leaf branches.

However, the tea world in Taiwan is changing. Many fields lack manpower. Young Taiwanese prefer to move to cities, where they can do better-paid jobs with less physical effort. Many tea farmers therefore buy cheap labour from Vietnam or Thailand, to the chagrin of tea quality. The foreign workers are generally less educated than the local pickers, which has a negative effect on the quality of the teas. For the tea producers it will be a big challenge in the future to get the tea leaves from the field to the factory. Because in the steep mountains harvesting machines are extremely difficult and the few workers who are there are demanding ever higher wages.

In the flat areas of Taiwan, many farmers are resorting to Japanese technology as a back of demographic change. In Japan, there are specialized tea harvesters that can pick tea leaves precisely and accurately. These machines cannot harvest as precisely as humans. But due to the lack of manpower, many farmers have no choice but to resort to the machines.

Tea harvest in the mountains of Taiwan

Enrte methods in Japan

The change that countries like Taiwan are currently making has happened in Japan. Rural workers are scarce and expensive. Only for special competitive teas is manual work still used in Japan. Most of the time, it is Japanese pensioners who want to earn something and increase their pension by a few yen with tea-picking.

Otherwise, the tea production is largely fully automated. The tea farmer waits for the perfect moment of harvest, adjusts his machine exactly and then drives across the field. The tea leaves are then taken to the nearest factory and processed by special production machines. You can read more about this in our article about Japanese tea production.

Pros and cons of technology

The advantage of this thoroughly technological tea production is that the Japanese teas generally have a very high standard. There are rarely teas from Japan, which are really very bad, the minimum quality is quite high. In the tea samples that reach us regularly, there are rarely teas, which are really bad. At the same time, machine production ensures little innovation and craftsmanship of ideas. Due to the lack of happy mishaps, there are less unusual teas and often tea varieties are similar to each other.

Nevertheless, it has to be said that tea production in Japan is hard work and demands a lot from the producers. People in Japan have access to all kinds of technology, but a tea farmer needs to know his field and his plants well. At the end of the day, it is still up to a person to decide when the tea is harvested and how it is produced.

Hand-held Tea Harvesting Machine Japan

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This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)