This is excerpt from a batch of Zhuping’s notes sent back from the Wuyi Mountains a few days ago. These notes are part of an effort to pair teas in our catalog with detailed pictures of their bush varieties. I thought they were an excellent explanation of not only a specific picking standard but also of how delicate the timeframe is for picking good rock wulong. The information in these notes about picking standards applies to all rock wulong, although the pictures below are just of the Bai Ji Guan (aka White Rooster Crest) bush-type.
More notes will be added soon. More pictures from this tour can be seen on our facebook page.
April 19th – Wuyi Mountain Tea Research Institute
Mr. Liu Guoying just began picking his tea bushes today. Picking will continue until sometime between May 10th and 15th, rotating from one variety to the next. Each variety has a window of just 3-5 days per year in which they yield their best leaves.
During this period of time, young buds will open into stems of 5 to 8 leaves, provided they are receiving sufficient nutrition. At just the right stage of a stem’s growth, the tea picker will just pick its 3 or 4 top-most leaves. The leaves on the bottom, although necessary for protecting the bud in the wintertime, are too tough for proper processing.
This picking only happens once all of the buds have opened and the first leaf is about a third of the size of second leaf. Picking can’t go on for more than a few days after this point. If the first leaf grows more than two thirds the size of the second leaf, the leaves will be too tough to roll and the entire stem is deemed too old to pick. Again, this is a window of just 3 to 5 days.
Within these time frames, pickers will go out for leaves three times per day (morning, noon, and afternoon) until the bush has matured past its picking window.
Note the stem on the left in the picture above – This is a stem suitable for plucking. It has had a healthy growth of five leaves with a bud remaining on top, so if it were allowed to continue to grow out, it would have at least six leaves. The two leaves on the bottom were curled around the bud during the winter, protecting it. The plucking in the middle and on the right side of the frame are stems that are underdeveloped from a lack of nutrition. Seeing that there are only two or three leaves on their stems, a tea picker won’t pick their tough leaves.
Lastly, a detail of leaf size and Bai Ji Guan’s unique coloration: