yyz said

How does the age of the tree stock effect the flavour and quality of tea?

I was looking at some teas on aliexpress today and one of the wholesalers specializing in one region allows one to search for teas based on the age of the tree stock. I was wondering how plant age effects the flavour and quality of the tea when one is in a plantation situation? I can understand that wild stock or very old tree stock that was started from seed may exhibit a higher level of genetic diversity which may impact flavour, but how is age reflected in the flavour and quality of teas grown from clonal stock? Is there an optimal age of tree plants for tea quality? Just curious, and I couldn’t really find any info on this except for some info on Pu-erhs.

4 Replies
za-hi said

instead of looking at the age of the tree, look at the quality of the leaf. for example, an apple tree will keep producing apples no matter how old it is. the way an apple tastes ultimately depends on the environment. optimal environment means optimal tea leaves. however, the quality of the tea also depends on how the farmer takes care of the leaves after they’re plucked. you could have the best cut of steak money could buy, but if it’s overcooked or improperly cooked, the steak is ruined.

yyz said


I know that there are several environmental variables that can effect the quality of the tea, and that harvest date and processing and storage can widely effect the quality of the tea. I’m just curious about how the age of the plant effects taste.

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sansnipple said

It’s mainly in relation to puer, and the biggest effect is… price.

There supposedly are taste and texture differences, but I’m not sure exactly what they are, and i doubt i’ll ever be able to afford to find out the way gushu (old tree puer) prices keep going. Although, since it’s pretty impossible to tell just by looking at the leaves if it really is old tree or not, fraud is very rampant. Theres no easy way to tell if what someone is selling as old-tree really is, and there’s no labeling enforcement at all in china so labeling something old-tree is a quick way to triple its value, and many also often blend gushu with other cheaper material. If you want the real stuff, be prepared to pay hundreds of dollars a cake.

In the world of green oolongs (Tieguanyin,Huang Jin Gui, etc), I’ve actually heard of a trend of favoring the youngest possible plantings, some even going as far as to replant all their bushes every few years, though whether it’s of real benefit or not I couldn’t say.

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Each region has different preferences and drivers for the life span of the plant stock. As you all know Puerh tea is available from new/young, old and ancient tea trees. In Darjeeling they tend believe that the optimum life span is around 80 years. For Tie Guan Yin, then optimum age is only 3-5 years with plants typically being replanted every 10-15 years.

As with so much relating to tea, a single, isolated factor can only have a marginal impact on the final product. From planting to cup you have thousands of factors at play.

Certainly if you consider the science behind it then the age of the plant will have a direct impact on flavour. The plant itself goes through a number of cycles during it’s life.

That said, teas such as Puerh and rock tea can come from plants with an age range of years through to hundreds (and thousands for Puerh) of years. I would be very impressed if anyone could tell the difference between a tea from a hundred year old tea tree and one from a two hundred year old tree.

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