Blog 74: An Introduction to Wild Harvest
Recently, we added Wild Harvest to our Wuyi oolong collection. As expected, the name “Wild Harvest” raised a lot questions from our customers and we’ve received quite a few specific inquiries on the product. Today, let’s talk about what exactly is our Wild Harvest and how it is different from the rest of our Wuyi oolong collection.
Wild Harvest is a translation from its original name in Chinese: Yě Chá (野茶), meaning “tea of the wild”. More specifically, it refers tea leaves harvested from wild tea plants.
A wild tea plant has no name, and it doesn’t belong to any particular cultivar family. Unlike most other tea plants, such as Rou Gui or Yellow Guan Yin, wild tea plants use seeds to reproduce.
For example, a tea plant blossoms and bears healthy fruits (seeds) in autumn. Soon, matured tea fruits fall to the ground and spread seeds everywhere. Then, a breeze or a bird might bring seeds further away from the plant. Tea seeds, full of energy and life, start to take root and sprout. Finally, they become new tea plants.
These tea plants don’t know where they come from or where they might end up. Because these tea plants sprout out of seeds, which are the result of a complete cross-pollination, they inherit most genes from their mother plants. But at the same time, they become slightly different due to the natural genetic mutation. Just like humans, we all inherit most of our genes from our parents, but we are not the exact copy of our fathers or mothers.
Just imagine how hard it’d be for us to find our ancestors from five centuries ago. After many generations, hundreds of years of mutations, tea plants that grow out of seeds can no longer be identified to one specific mother plant. Therefore, they become “wild”, a term tea makers use to name a tea plant that cannot not be traced back to its mother or father plant.
Most other tea plants, however, are reproduced through agricultural cuttage. The benefit of cuttage is that all future generations will keep identical varietal characters as the current generation. We can consider most tea plant cultivars are the precise “copies” of their ancestors. In tea-making and tea business, keeping tea plants controlled is important. For teas such as Rou Gui, Yellow Guan Yin and Golden Peony that are famous for their nice aromas, a tiny mutation of the tea plant might just change their entire aroma character. This is one of many reasons why there aren’t any wild Rou Gui plants or wild Golden Peony plants.
Since the term Wild Harvest mainly refers to tea plants, we should point out that the reason that our Wild Harvest is a oolong tea is because we processed it as a oolong. If we harvest from the same wild plants and process all fresh leaves as black tea, our “Wild Harvest” would become a black tea.
Growing in an unmanaged, un-arranged and completely natural environment, Wild Harvest has more “neighbors” than those carefully managed. Since tea plants are easily influenced by the environment and the climate, Wild Harvest absorbs more nutrients from a more complex and diverse surroundings.
All Wild Harvest leaves also need to be hand-picked. Since wild tea plants scatter randomly in a tea field, hand-picking offers better efficiency. Hand-picked leaves are most carefully selected and offer a better fresh-leaf to tea ratio (8.5 pounds of fresh leaves make 1 pound of tea, compare to 10:1 ratio of common machine harvests).
Wild Harvest offers us the unique opportunity to see how tea plants can evolve without human interference. It’s a “homeless” tea, and there’s no standard to it. We can judge if a Shui Xian is made right, but we can’t possibly judge a Wild Harvest. Not all tea makers can make a Wild Harvest, and no two Wild Harvest are the same. Even though it’s often considered as a niche product, Wild Harvest definitely delivers an unparalleled and exquisite tea experience.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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