Blog 133: Tea Field Management - Why Do We Cut Old Tea Plants?

Recently, many readers asked us that since we only have one harvest per year, what do we do after the harvest? Do we just focus on sales and wait for the next spring harvest?


The end of spring harvest is actually the beginning of a whole year’s hard work. Sure, after spring harvest, tea makers no longer need to work 24*7 to process fresh leaves. However, the rest of the tea-making process still requires tea makers to work diligently on site.


For example, Wuyi oolong leaves still need to be roasted. Considering there’re dozens types of Wuyi oolong teas, the roasting process itself will take at least months.


A field of tea plants before "deep cut"

Besides the usual tea-making related works, “tea field and tea plant management” is also a big task.


Different from what most people would think, tea field management is not about applying fertilizer or irrigating the field - the nature has these basics covered. Situated in Wuyi mountains area, our tea fields have abundant water sources and natural fertilizers such as fallen leaves and fruits.


Tea field management focuses more on how to improve a tea plant’s unit output.


If you come to our tea mountains today, you’d notice that some tea plants are cut “bald” (see pic below). This is an interesting example of the tea plant management. Today, let’s take a closer look at why we need to cut tea plants to “nothing”.


A tea plant after "deep cut"

When people first look at these “bald” tea plants, their first impression is always “these plants are dead”. Indeed, in the middle of summer, no normal plants should be so “naked”. When we explain that we cut tea plants on purpose, a new question arise - WHY?


Depending on cultivars, most tea plants can live up to from a few decades to hundreds of years. As tea plants getting older, they grow larger and closer to each other. High density makes less air available. As a result, the growth of tea plants suffers. This is one of many major reasons why older tea plants tend to have smaller outputs.


When tea plants have smaller outputs due to the higher density, instead of applying chemical fertilizers, we perform a “deep cut” to correct the issue.


By cutting tea plants “bald”, we can open up spaces between adjacent tea plants to regrow (see pic below). As a way to revive old tea plants, a “deep cut” can effectively “reset” tea plants back to higher outputs.


A deep cut opens up spaces between tea plants

This is why we have to cut tea plants down to “bare-bones”. An incomplete cut won’t be sufficient enough to hit the reset button.


Soon after the cut, tea plants will sprout again. As you can see below, new buds and leaves still come out normally. It takes a few months for tea plants to be fully grown. When the next spring harvest comes, these tea plants might just look like other uncut tea plants. Nonetheless, the first harvest after the deep cut is always less than satisfactory. Therefore, most tea makers choose to only harvest from the second spring after the deep cut.


New buds and leaves on recently cut tea plants

A deep cut can be viewed as a “mid-life refresh” of tea plants. Like a delicate timepiece, tea plants also need to be carefully maintained and managed to perform well. With techniques like “deep cut”, we can protect and improve our tea plants without using chemical products or altering the tea plant growing environment.


We hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email the author directly at zhang@valleybrooktea.com. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions!


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