Monday, January 30, 2012

Ethereal Tea Fields

Mist in the Darjeeling hills

"Ethereal" is the best word I could find to describe the experience of the tea fields at Glenburn Tea EstateThe day was damp but pleasant.  The low clouds flirted with the landscapes; there for one moment then gone, to return just as soon. 

Each of the ~60 fields here has its own character. Each field produces a unique cup of tea, based on its elevation, age, the plant varietal, when the tea is harvested, amount of sun and rain, nutrients in the soil, etc.  Even within one field there are micro climates.  All of these factors must be accounted for when making the tea in the factory.

Tea plants grow on steep slopes

Glenburn produces tea from four harvesting seasons:
  • First flush: March/April
  • Second flush:  May/June
  • Monsoon flush: Mid July - Mid October; this is what we were drinking
  • Autumnal - November
There is a rest period between each flush, to allow the plant to restore the starch content in the roots.

Tea stumps and roots from bushes that have been removed

Glenburn removes a small percentage of its tea plants each year.  These fields are left fallow for few years, planted with legumes to restore nitrogen.  To balance the monoculture of tea growing, other compatible plants (marigolds, citronella, etc.) and insects (lady bugs, preying mantis) are introduced to the fields.  Tea plants need slightly acidic soil, between 4.5 and 5.5 pH in this area. 

Baby tea plants, grown from the Glenburn nursery

Traditionally, tea plants were germinated from seed in a moist sand/soil mixture.  In fact, the infamous Robert Fortune perfected the use of the Wardian Case, like a terrarium, to smuggle tea plants out of China. Today, however, most tea plants are made from slips, or cuttings, like you might do with a philodendron at home.  The slips ensure an identical genetic match to the parent, whereas tea seeds may be a hybrid - and that could be good or bad!

Next up, a look at the tea factory and then a picnic lunch by the river.


Rosemary said...

Beautiful tea fields! I think the tiny little tea plant I am coaxing to grow needs more mist! Either that, or it doesn't want to be a single plant on my windowsill... would rather be in a tea field!

Marilyn Miller said...

Yes, the tea fields are beautiful. I am amazed at the size of these fields after having traveled in Taiwan. And curious about different varietals grown by the same estate.

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying my vicarious tea trip immensely! What you have captured with your camera lens is amazing. I feel as if I am right there with you (and Mary Jane)! The women, the plants, the clouds, bed tea, a soak in that tub and the view from the plane. . . everything is so beautiful. I doubt I will ever be able to visit such wonderful places, but tagging along via your blog is a perfect vacation! I did not have to pack and I have no laundry on my return. Thank You!
Sips and Smiles,

Steph said...

:-) Thank you for your encouragement, friends!

Teafan said...

Looks like a place where one could spend a lot of time wandering in wonder.

Angela McRae said...

Soooo enjoying this journey with you--and I'm learning a lot, too!

parTea lady said...

What an interesting post and great photos. Thanks for the link to the Wardian Case info too.

ahnn said...

It's a great place to visit. Thanks for sharing.

Darjeeling Tea