An initiative of :

Wageningen University

Sitekeuring.NET Award> Products > Tea

Tea cultivation


The tea plant is an evergreen of the Camellia family that is native to China, Tibet and northern India . There are two main varieties of the tea plant. The small leaf variety, known as Camellia sinensis, thrives in the cool, high mountain regions of central China and Japan. The broad leaf variety, known as Camellia assamica, grows best in the moist, tropical climates found in Northeast India and the Szechuan and Yunnan provinces of China. The plant produces dark green, shiny leaves and small, white blossoms.

Tea plant (Source)

There are numerous hybrids that originate from the above two species, which have been developed to suit different conditions

According to an old Chinese saying, "superior tea comes from high mountains". The altitude and mountain mists help shield against too much sunlight and provide the proper temperature and humidity to allow the leaves to develop slowly and remain tender. As with wine, the quality and taste of a particular tea is influenced by both the environment (soil, climate, and altitude) and the tea maker (who decides when and how the leaf is plucked and how it is processed).

Most tea plants have a growth phase and a dormant period, usually during the winter. The leaves are plucked as the new tea shoots (or "flush") emerge. In hotter climates, the plants have several flushes and can be picked year-round. In cooler conditions at higher elevations, there is a distinct harvesting season. Leaves from the earlier flushes, usually in the spring, give the finest quality teas.

There are four main types of tea: green tea, black tea, oolong tea and white tea. All tea comes from the same plant. The specific variety of tea plant and the way the leaves are processed after harvesting determine the type of tea that is created.

Tea plantation in Kenya (Source)


T ea grows mainly between the tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, requiring up to 1000-1250mm of rain per year, as well as a temperature ideally between 10 to 30 °C. It will grow from sea level up to 2400 metres.

The tea garden (tea estate) is where the flavour potential of the tea will be generated, and so great care and attention is taken to insure that the best possible growing conditions are created. This means in some cases planting trees to generate shade, or planting wind breaks, to prevent damage from strong winds, particularly on the plains of Assam .

Plants are placed in rows some approximately one metre apart. The bushes must be pruned every four to five years in order to rejuvenate the bush and keeping it at a convenient height for the pluckers to pick the tea from. This is known as the "Plucking Table".

Tea harvesting (Source)

A tea bush may happily produce good tea for 50 70 years, but after 50 years the plants yield will reduce. At this time the older bushes will be considered for replacement by younger plants grown on the estates nursery.


P lucking rounds depend on climate; new growth can be plucked at 7 - 12 day intervals during the growing season. Tea harvesting is exhaustive and labour intensive (between two and three thousand tea leaves are needed to produce just a kilo of unprocessed tea) and is a procedure of considerable skill. 

Tea pluckers, learn to recognise the exact moment at which the flush should be removed. This is important, to ensure the tenderest leaves are plucked to produce the finest teas.

After plucking, leaves are transported to factories for processing. The fields are normally adjacent to the factory.

Tea growing regions (Source)

More information on tea :


European Masters Degree in Food Studies - an Educational Journey

Master in Food Safety Law is an initiative of Wageningen University, The Netherlands