A new tea-plant must grow for five years before its leaves can be picked and, at 30 years of age, it will be too old to be productive. The trunk of the old plant must then be cut off to force new stems to grow out of the roots in the coming year. By repeated rehabilitations in this way, a plant may serve for about 100 years.
For the fertilization of tea gardens, soya-bean cakes or other varieties of organic manure are generally used, and seldom chemical fertilizers. When pets are discovered, the affected plants will be removed to prevent their spread, and also to avoid the use of pesticides.
The season of tea-picking depends on local climate and varies from area to area. On the shores of West Lake in Hangzhou, where the famous green tea Longjing (Dragon Well) comes from, picking starts from the end of March and 1asts through October, altogether 20-30 times from the same plants at intervals of seven to ten days. With a longer interval, the quality of the tea will deteriorate.
A skilled woman picker can only gather 600 grams(a 1ittle over a pound)0f green tea leaves in a day.
The new leaves must be parched in tea cauldrons. This work, which used to be done manually, has been largely mechanized. Top-grade Dragon well tea, However, still has to be stir-parched by hand, doing only 250 grams every half hour. The tea-cauldrons are heated electri- cally to a temperature of about 250centigrade degrees or 740centigrade degrees. It takes four pounds of flesh 1eaves to produce one pound of parched tea.
For the processes of grinding, parching, rolling, shaping and drying other grades of tea various machines have been developed and built, turning out about 100 kilograms of finished tea an hour and relieving the workers from much of their drudgery.