Had a long discussion with myself earlier today about what factors impact the quality of tea. I know the plant itself is crucial and the way the tea farmers handle the tea is equally important. But something I got to thinking about today was the quality of the soil that the tea is grown in.
I've asked before what makes Darjeeling tea so unique. The altitude plays a part, as do the things mentioned above. But the actual earth that the tea is grown in must also be key. When it comes to Darjeeling specifically, the spirit of the Hindu god Shiva is also purported to be at work, as well.
But I'd like to continue on this theme of the soil. I did the scantest research, but I did find a very scholarly looking article (http://www.pakbs.org/pjbot/PDFs/38(2)/PJB38(2)293.pdf) that did it's very best at confusing me further.
There was one line that told me I was on the right track, 'but the pH of the soil is the most critical for raising the nursery plants.' Now we're getting somewhere. A low pH is paramount, because high pH causes something called 'callusing' and might slow down the process.
Then the article goes into excruciating detail about what you can do if you have soil with a high pH level (add either sulphur or an aluminium sulphate solution, but this can backfire because if the soil starts producing sulphuric acid). I'm not going to get any more specific. I'm sure if you're trying to improve the quality of your soil for growing tea, my blog is the last place you'll come looking.
But I am curious if you've heard about the impact of soil on the resulting tea.
Why is tea in China so dramatically different from that in India? Is it simply down to the plant and the way it's processed?