Tea Leaf Structure

The ideal leaf structure when hand-picking tea is 2-3 leaves, bud, and stem. When tea is hand-picked by skilled workers, they are able to pick the ideal part of the plant—which is only the new growth of the tea plant (2-3 leaves, a bud, and stem). When hand-picking is done by less skilled/experienced pickers (which is happening more and more in Taiwan, as there is a skilled picker labour shortage—another discussion), they may be not get it perfect every-time.

Lower elevation (400m for example), are mostly machine harvested. The machine used is held by two people (one on either side of the tea plant) and collects the leaves in a bag. The machine is not as precise as the hand, and so picking the perfect leaf/bud combination of new growth is not possible.

Uneven leaves, single leaves, and stems: If you have a tea with this appearance there is a single and very specific reason for why these leaves look the way they do: that is because they are harvested by machine. This is always the case when leaves are harvested by machine, they are cut unevenly and are not carefully picked as they are by hand with two leaves and a stem or three leaves and a stem.

Single leaf tea: Another reason that some tea is only a single leaf is that high-quality tea, or tea that is sold at higher prices has had the stems removed by hand. And when the stems are removed this causes the leaves two separate or to break off from the remaining stem since it is not very substantial after you take off the base of the stem. This is why competition oolong teas often are just single-leaf after you brew them.

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