I visited a stunning garden in Assam called Phulbari ( pronounced fool : barry ). It is owned by the world renowned McLeod Russel group and it is hugely impressive. From the breathtaking scenery to the sparkling factory where the leaves are broken up and dried, it is hard to imagine how tea could be better made.
This garden is over 2000 acres of tea bushes and while I was there they were in full flow, plucking the entire garden every week !! The photos above show a tiny section of the garden just after it has been plucked, very picturesque !
Two leaves and a bud are picked every week and this forms a new flush on top of the bush about 3 to 4 inches in height. When you see the leaves being plucked and realize that those leaves are simply broken up, fermented for an hour and dried, you just can’t wait to sample the finished product. There surely can’t be any beverage more pure or wholesome.
The botanical name of a tea bush is Camellia Sinensis and indeed there are many strains of Camellia grown in this part of the world, I have attached a photo of one at the Punjana factory (left), we planted a lot of them and they flower beautifully in the spring. So whether its China tea, Indian tea or Ceylon tea, it’s a Camelia plant. The different taste characteristics can be influenced by soil types, the altitude it is grown at and whichever clone is selected.
Assam tea is seasonal, the monsoon driving growth for most of the year, but in December the rains have disappeared. Production stops and the bush rests right through to March, when temperatures once again start to rise and the much needed moisture from the Monsoon returns. Whilst tea is grown in Assam from March through to end of November, we normally buy only June, July and August growth as this is well known for being the best quality period.
A bit more next time about exactly what happens to the leaf, from when it is picked off the bush, to the finished product ready for brewing !