Tea leaves originate from the leaves of an evergreen shrub named Camellia Sinensis. The magical leaves from the tea plants are responsible for giving the second most consumed beverage in the globe. While tea is getting to become such a celebrated drink around the world, tea plants are deprived of the limelight.
When you imagine a tree plant, you do not just imagine the short fluffy collection of green tea leaves, you also mentally picture the scenes attached to a tea plant, right? Yes, the picturesque mountains, the chilly moisty air and the entire landscape associated with a tea plant, right?
But what about it? Why do we usually associate tea plants with hilly areas and cold temperature? This is one common question which needs attention here. Are tea plants grown only in mountain lands? Why so? Where are the regions it is mostly cultivated? Can it not grow elsewhere?
Can tea plants grow in flat lands? Tea plants can grow in flat lands if favorable conditions are provided. Tea plants are susceptible to temperature and rainfall conditions. While mountains provide altitude advantage and all favorable conditions naturally; proper harvesting methods can help yield tea leaves even in flat lands.
To understand the logic behind the connection of mountains and tea plants, you need to understand what tea plants are in general. Tea plants are evergreen shrubs found mostly in tropical and subtropical regions. The growth of the plants is usually shunted in shorter heights due to commercial advantages.
It is believed that the average height of the tea plant can reach up to 15-20 metres if left unchecked. However, due to commercial reasons, the plants are made to grow only till the height of about 1.20-1.40 metres.
The leaves of these plants give the magical tea leaves which are beneficial in both medicinal aspects and for the beverage it provides.
Tea plants grow the best in tropical ad subtropical regions. Historically Southeast Asian Regions, Indian Subcontinent and eastern Asian regions are the regions where the cultivation of tea flourished. But gradually it was taken to other subtropical regions around the globe.
The leaves are usually grown in the Asian subcontinent due to the weather and land qualities. But tea companies can now produce commercially viable tea plant varieties elsewhere. Tea plants are now cultivated from the equator to as far north as Cornwall and Scotland on the UK mainland.
Factors Influencing Growth Of Tea Plants
Rainfall requirement: For the best cultivation of tea plants, the ideal rainfall requirement is about 127cm (50 in). Furthermore, tea plants usually prefer a rich and moist growing location in full to partly sunny conditions.
Tea plants can grow in conditions with lesser rainfall, but the quality of the tea leaves it gives is compromised. The rainfall requirement makes the subtropical regions ideal for the growth of tea plants.
Temperature requirement: The ideal temperature required for maximum yield in tea plants is in general, the ambient temperature within 13°C and 28-32°C. Temperature above 32°C is unfavorable for optimum photosynthesis. The condition worsens if the humidity is low.
Water requirement: Standard rainfall requirement for tea plants is approximately 127cm (50 in). However, tea plants do not grow well if the plants are waterlogged. While the specific rain shower is required, saturated conditions during tea cultivation can be troublesome. Proper drainage of the water is essential for structured growth.
Considering all the above points together, you can easily relate the conditions favorable to higher altitudes. Mountain ranges offer the best possible conditions for tea plants to grow. The cooler temperatures, moisty climates and required rainfall are all met by mountain ranges.
The steeps of the mountain ranges also allow the excess water to drain out; thus, eliminating the fear of waterlogging.
Additionally, tea grown in higher altitudes, up to 1500 metres, get a lesser amount of oxygen and sunlight, forcing the tea leaves to grow slower. While the production of tea leaves get slower, the characteristic scent and flavor of tea leaves are unparalleled. This is one of the reasons why tea leaves grown on hills are known for their superior quality.
You have surely heard about Darjeeling tea. The average elevation of Darjeeling is approximately 2000 metres. The altitude of the hills, in this case, play a significant role in deciding the quality of tea leaves.
These are primarily the reasons why tea plants are grown mostly in mountain regions.
Tea Leaves In Flat Lands
Indeed, not all these criteria can be adequately maintained in flat lands. The fluctuating temperature becomes an issue. The irregularity in the rainfall in the flat lands become troublesome for the leaves. Most importantly, waterlogging becomes a big issue for the plants.
Flat lands have a variety of rainfall conditions. Either excess rainfall can ruin the crops due to excess waterlogging, or dearth rainfall can force leaves to grow unnaturally. The flavor and the color becomes an issue in both such cases.
But even so, one can effectively produce tea leaves even in conditions not very favorable according to the requirements. Modern agricultural methods can provide the best alternatives to natural conditions.
Although natural gardens give the best quality of tea leaves, factories producing tea leaves in not so specific requirements offer the highest yields of tea leaves.
Abundant of tea leaves that you consume from areas not completely ideal according to traditional tea producing methods. Tea leaves produced in such factories may take a dig in quality. Still, the production remains relatively high throughout the year.
This is mainly because the conditions can be reasonably maintained in these regions using modern agricultural methods. Providing sunlight and water only in the quantities required, dehumidification of the farming land areas and most importantly modern draining processes can drain the excess water effectively. So, yes, you may actually cultivate tea plants in your own terms.
But can you expect a similar taste from your grown tea plants? Well, technically, no. Besides the mentioned parameters, the soil quality and the oxygen level plays an essential role in deciding the taste of your tea leaves.
The altitude levels determine the quality of the tea leaves. Tea leaves originated in higher altitude levels have a better quality taste and are higher in prices. This also has to do with the production capacity.
Modern tea factories are mostly set in regions which try to provide at least some favorable conditions for the crops to grow. Factories mass-producing tea leaves are generally situated in colder areas with desired levels of rainfall. Advancement in technologies has facilitated the stunted growth even in these regions.
Modern drainage systems have also altered the water logging conditions, severely making it possible for the tea plants to grow.
The factories, however, focus on the production capacity and not just quality.
Tea leaves are plucked in lesser intervals forcing the tea leaves to grow faster. The faster growth rate means higher production of tea leaves regularly. But yes, the quality of tea leaves and the aroma gets compromised. The forced growth of the leaves takes a dig in the quality of the leaves.
Tea leaves can practically be grown in flat lands in controlled conditions. The amount of sunlight and the amount of water can be regulated according to the desired levels. Modern draining methods can also help drain the excess water and prevent waterlogging.
Flat lands with controlled conditions during the production of tea leaves can yield a good quality of tea plants.
The factory leaves are in fact mass-produced because of faster rates of production. However, the quality of the tea leaves gets compromised due to forced growth during the process of production.
In all essence, one can produce tea leaves in flat lands. Some conditions need to be maintained to ensure the plants grow in their optimum conditions.