In our opinion, Fujian is the most important tea-producing area in the world. Fujian is the birthplace of black tea (Tongmu Village/桐木关), white tea (Fuding/福鼎) oolong tea (Wuyi Mountains/武夷山 and Anxi/安溪). Till today, Fujian still produces absolutely the best tea products in these tea categories.
Throughout the history, Fujian tea has always been an important part of royal tributes. The prestigious client base means Fujian tea doesn’t need to cut corners in the tea-making process. Fujian tea’s premium quality is not only enjoyed by the rich and powerful in old China, but also the world. In fact, the English word “TEA” comes directly from a dialect in Fujian. (Southern Fujianess/闽南话)
Since tea is an agricultural product and Fujian is such a big tea producer, many people mistakenly think Fujian is also big on the overall agriculture output. The truth is, Fujian’s agriculture output counts only about 0.7% of China’s total number. Besides tea and some fruits, Fujian really has no significant agriculture production.
There’re many reasons why Fujian can’t be a big province on agriculture: too many mountains, too hot and too humid, and most importantly - the acidic soil.
Few crops can grow healthily on acidic soil. Tea plants, however, only thrive on acidic soil.
Unlike the black-colored soil we see in North America, the soil in Fujian is red. The red soil is usually too acidic for normal crops. Nonetheless, it’s ideal for tea plants.
Tea plants prefer a soil pH level between 4.0 to 6.5. The most comfortable soil pH level for tea plants is between 4.5 to 5.5. In a neutral soil pH level (7.0), tea plants could suffer from poor growth or severe malnutrition.
Tea plant’s preference for acidic soil is the result of its evolution. Tea plants originally came from primeval forest which has an acidic soil. In long history of evolution and development, tea plants gradually evolved to like acidic soil. Therefore, only in an acidic soil environment, tea plants can smoothly absorb nutrients.
Researches also show that a tea plant’s root system contains an abundant amount of organic acids such as citric acid, malic acid, oxalic acid, and pyretic acid. At the same time, it contains a very low amount of inorganic acids and salts. As a result, tea plants have a excellent buffering power against acids, but rather weak buffering power against alkalis.
Tea plants particularly dislike calcium. In our tea mountain fields, the calcium content is at an extremely low level of 0.15% to 0.32%. The level of calcium content is in direct proportion to soil pH level. Tea plants simply cannot grow healthily on high pH and high calcium content soil (more alkali).
Finally, a tea plant’s root system has many fungal hypha or mycorrhiza. They can only survive in acidic soil. These little “friends” of tea plants can effectively decompose organics. In other words, they help better supply nutrients and water to tea plants.
At the end of this blog, we’d like to remind our readers that tea-making is an incredibly difficult and painstaking work. The life of a tea leaf starts with its growing environment. We hope this blog can help you understand why tea plants favor acidic soil.
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