Blog 6: A Common Misunderstanding of Tea

Updated: Nov 13, 2018

If you follow us on social media, you would probably notice that April is the month we prepare for our once-a-year harvest. This is a great time to observe all tea leaves before they are processed. For most untrained eyes, finished tea leaves are always more difficult to distinguish among them. Thus, many tea lovers have the wrong impression that different kinds of teas in the same category (eg. black tea/oolong tea/green tea) are actually the same tea leaves made differently using different techniques. More specifically, many tea lovers mistakenly think all oolong tea leaves (or black tea leaves) are from the same tea plants. They are different teas just because they are processed differently.

Today, let’s use the example of Rou-Gui and Huang Guan Yin (also called by its production number “105”, I’ll call it 105 in this blog) to illustrate the differences.

Both Rou-Gui and 105 are Wu-Yi oolong rock tea. 105 is a grafting breed that has a significant earlier harvest time compared to Rou-Gui’s. Here is a picture of Rou-Gui’s (left) and 105’s (right) leaves taken on the same day.

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Rou-Gui (left) and Huang Guan Yin (right)

As you can see, when 105 has already sprouted 4 leaves, Rou-Gui just starts to sprout. The differences in growth rate lead to a more than 20-day gap in harvesting. Also worth noticing, Rou-Gui leaves are curving inwards while 105 leaves curving outwards. Rou-Gui leaves are hugging their new buds, and 105 leaves grow in the opposite direction from new buds.

Rou-Gui Leaf
Rou-Gui Leaf

These small differences between the two plants actually contribute to quite a big difference in the final taste and aroma. Both being rock tea, Rou-Gui and 105 are processed following the same procedures and the same techniques. It’s not the “secret recipe” that make these teas different from each other. It is the plants that make the difference.

Hope this blog can help you have a better understanding of tea and tea plants. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment or find us on Twitter and Instagram: @valleybrooktea .