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The Qinling Mountain Tea Series - Part 5: About Mountain Tea

The Qinling Mountain Tea Series - Part 1: What is Tea?
The Qinling Mountain Tea Series - Part 2: China Tea and World
The Qinling Mountain Tea Series - Part 3: Tea Cultivation History in China
The Qinling Mountain Tea Series - Part 4: Six Chinese Tea Types
The Qinling Mountain Tea Series - Part 5: About Mountain Tea
The Qinling Mountain Tea Series - Part 6: What is Qinling Mt.
The Qinling Mountain Tea Series - Part 7: Teas From Qinling Mt.
The Qinling Mountain Tea Series - Part 8: Qinling Green Tea
The Qinling Mountain Tea Series - Part 9: Qinling Black Tea
The Qinling Mountain Tea Series - Part 10: Qinling Fu Tea

 

In the "Records of the Eastern Studio东斋纪事" by Fan Zhen范镇 during the Song Dynasty宋, he expressed, "The tea produced in the area around Mount Meng in the elegant province of Shu is the finest. The tea there grows the latest, usually emerging between spring and summer. Often, the area is shrouded in mist and clouds, as if divine entities were protecting it."

蒙顶山茶
Since the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279), the Chinese know that high mountains produce excellent tea. This has become a widely circulated saying among tea enthusiasts in China: "Good tea comes from high mountains and clouds." In Taiwan, oolong tea is judged primarily based on the altitude of the growing region, which is the most crucial indicator of a tea's quality.

Why Mountain Tea Is Better?

The differences between plain and mountainous regions in tea production are primarily related to climate, altitude, soil, and water quality.

Temperature: As altitude increases, temperatures generally decrease. The relatively lower temperatures contribute to tea plants' slow growth, extending tea leaves' growth cycle. This allows the tea plants to absorb nutrients from the soil more effectively, resulting in a more prosperous chemical composition. The lower temperature also aids in accumulating amino acids and aromatic substances in tea leaves.

Sunlight Exposure: In higher altitude areas, the proximity to the ground results in more prolonged exposure to sunlight and more intense solar radiation. This favors the process of photosynthesis, promoting the formation of chlorophyll in tea plants. This, in turn, enhances the color of tea leaves and increases the amino acid content, making the tea leaves fresher and more tender.

Atmospheric Pressure: The relatively lower atmospheric pressure in high-altitude regions assists in generating and preserving volatile substances in tea leaves. These substances include the aromatic components of tea leaves, contributing to the enhanced fragrance typically found in tea from high-altitude areas.

Soil Quality: High-altitude regions generally have more fertile soil with higher mineral and nutrient content. This is highly beneficial for the growth of tea plants and nutrient absorption, contributing to the rich taste and unique flavor of the resulting tea leaves.

Temperature Variation: Large temperature variations between day and night in high-altitude regions contribute to the accumulation of amino acids in tea leaves, enhancing the freshness and flavor of the tea.

Climate Conditions: Ideal climate conditions for tea plant growth typically include warm and humid conditions with distinct seasons. Due to their higher altitude, moderate temperatures, and significant day-night temperature differences, mountainous areas provide favorable conditions for tea plant growth. In contrast, the lower altitude and higher temperatures in plain regions may not be as conducive to the growth of certain high-mountain teas.

Altitude: Most premium tea is grown at relatively high altitudes because of the favorable temperature and fresh air in these areas, which contribute to the growth and development of tea plants. Plains may need to be more suitable for cultivating certain high-mountain teas due to their lower altitude and relatively higher temperatures.

Soil Texture: Tea plants have specific soil requirements, usually favoring loose, well-aerated, and organically rich acidic soils. Mountainous soils typically better suit the growth of tea plants, while soils in plain regions may be more diverse and only sometimes meet the requirements for tea plant cultivation.

Water Quality: The quality of water also influences tea quality. Streams in mountainous areas tend to be more explicit, providing a purer water source, while human activities and pollution may  affect water sources in plain regions.

In summary, when considered together, these factors make mountainous regions more suitable for tea plant growth, while plain areas are relatively less favorable. However, there are exceptions in some plains that are conducive to tea cultivation, usually depending on specific geographical and climatic conditions. The following are some notable plains in China where tea is successfully cultivated:

  1. Nanjing Plain, Jiangsu Province: The Nanjing Plain is one of China's major tea-producing regions, renowned for premium teas like Biluochun. The region's humid climate and suitable soil conditions contribute to the production of green tea.

  2. Yangzhou Plain, Jiangsu Province: The Yangzhou Plain is another important tea-producing area known for Jasmine tea and Taiping Houkui.

  3. Hangzhou Plain, Zhejiang Province: The Hangzhou Plain is a central production area for Longjing tea, considered one of the birthplaces of Chinese green tea. West Lake Longjing tea is a famous variety from this region.

These plain regions succeed in growing tea due to their generally humid climate, suitable soil, and unique conditions that impart distinct flavors and qualities to the tea leaves. Green tea is the predominant type in these areas, and the processing techniques also exhibit unique characteristics.

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