When tea is harvested
Tea is harvested over a period of about eight months, from March to the end of September.
The quality of the tea differs considerably depending on whether the leaves are harvested in the spring, summer or autumn. The earlier in the year the tea is picked, the finer the aroma the drink will have.
How tea is harvested
Tea is still commonly plucked by hand, traditionally by women who, between dawn and sundown will repeat the same movements as many as 20,000 times. In Japan and Georgia, and in lowland plantations, tea is harvested mechanically.
There are three basic harvest grades, each designating a different quality of tea:
when only the bud and the youngest leaf are picked. The bud, or pekoe, is the tip of the shoot, with the leaf still tightly curled.
In China this harvest was reserved for the emperor, and at one time was plucked exclusively by virgins wearing white gloves.
This plucking yields white tea.
when the bud is plucked together with the next two leaves. This yields very high quality teas.
when the bud is plucked together with the next three or four leaves.
The fourth and fifth leaves known as souchong, are often used for smoked teas.